More than one thousand attendees participated, networked, tested new VR & game experiences, and observed talks from industry thought leaders throughout the festival

(NEW YORK, NY) August 2, 2017 — The third day of programming at the 14th Annual Games for Change Festival featured the first-ever VR for Change Summit, which brought together developers, artists, storytellers, journalists, researchers, activists and policymakers for dialogue, connections and debates focused on new initiatives to advance virtual technologies for positive social change. Held at The New School’s Parsons School of Design, the Summit was curated by Erik Martin, former Policy Advisor at White House Office of Science and Technology Policy under the Obama Administration. This year’s festival boasted over 1,000 attendees, marking it the largest attended Games for Change Festival in its 14 year history. Attendees registered for three-day passes which included the VR for Change Summit, and the split between female and male attendees was almost even (48% female to 52% male).


Highlights and notable speakers from the VR for Change Summit included:


  • iNK Stories’ new VR interactive narrativeBlindfold, made its North American debut today at the VR for Change Summit. iNK Stories, in partnership with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and The Center for Human Rights in Iran, brings to life the dangers that free journalists face worldwide, putting you into the shoes of a photojournalist in a tense interrogation where your choices shape the fates of you and those around you. At the premier, Navid Khonsari, Founder and Creator at iNK Stories, was joined on stage for a panel discussion by Omid Memarian, an Iranian journalist who was held captive against his will for 55 days in 2004, and accused of being an enemy of the Islamic State. Omid shared his personal experience and expressed the importance of a free press, explaining that the game relies a lot on empathy, giving insight into what foreign journalists held in captivity still experience to this day. The conversation also drew parallels to pop-culture references like Showtime’s “Homeland,” and also to the real life current political climate in the U.S.
  • Megan Smith, the third White House Chief Technology Officer of the United States (U.S. CTO), shared a vision for how virtual and augmented reality technologies could empower people and improve civic engagement and create social change. She also shared more about her experiences and stories as the former U.S. Chief Technology Officer in the Obama Administration.
  • Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, illustrated that use of virtual reality and innovative apps have impacted empathy and continue to revolutionize the way people access reproductive health care.
  • Adam Gazzaley, Founder & Executive Director of Neuroscape, shared his vision of how emerging virtual reality technology can be used to achieve meaningful and sustainable cognitive enhancement, with the ultimate aim of improving quality of life.
  • Sophia Dominguez, CEO/Co-founder, SVRF, Clorama Dorvilias, UX Interaction Designer, Code for America, Alice Lloyd George, Principal, RRE Ventures, andZohar Kfir, Testimony, held a talk focused on forging the “Cyberfeminist Multireality” discussing how we can build a future for VR that is empowering and inclusive for women, what that might look like, and what needs to be done to get there.
  • Hassan Karaouni,Engineering Manager, Facebook and Cody Karutz, Software Engineer, Facebook, provided a lighting summary of take-aways from their journey rolling out VR to more than 300 high schools, testing a DIY viewer, and building a VR storytelling project. In this talk, Hassan and Cody recapped how Facebook approaches VR design for high school classrooms at scale to learn fundamental computer science skills while creating WebVR content.

Lastly, Games for Change recently hosted a VR Brain Jam where 12 teams of 22 neuroscience researchers and 64 game developers were charged with exploring the intersection of their domains. Some of the results of the VR Brain Jam were shared on stage by Dave Culyba, Assistant Teaching Professor, Carnegie Mellon University, Fernanda Herrera, PhD Candidate, Stanford University, Aaron Norstad, Head of Product Development, Unity Technologies, and Aldis Sipolins, Head of Virtual Reality and Game Design, IBM Research. Topics included risk taking, exploring how far a player is willing to go with taking risks and what the off-set is if you don’t take those risks.


**A NOTE TO MEDIA: Keynote presentations were recorded via Periscope – archived footage of the aforementioned talks can be accessed here: periscope.tv/g4c.

Please credit: Games for Change for use. Additional video footage is available upon request.

Photos from Day 1 & 2 of the Games for Change Festival can be accessed here: https://sunshinesachs.egnyte.com/fl/ZhKo0zOYNY. (Please creditJane Kratochvil / Games for Change).


About Games for Change

Since 2004, Games for Change (G4C) has been empowering game creators and innovators to drive real-world change, using games that help people to learn, improve their communities, and contribute to make the world a better place. G4C partners with technology and gaming companies as well as nonprofits, foundations and government agencies, to run world class events, public arcades, design challenges and youth programs. G4C supports a global community of game developers working to use games to tackle real-world challenges, from humanitarian conflicts to climate change and education.


About Parsons School of Design

Parsons School of Design is one of the world’s leading institutions for art and design education. Based in New York but active around the world, the school offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the full spectrum of art and design disciplines. Critical thinking and collaboration are at the heart of a Parsons education. Parsons graduates are leaders in their fields, with a shared commitment to creatively and critically addressing the complexities of life in the 21st century. www.newschool.edu/parsons/


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