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Feature: 'Event Wrap-Up: Games For Change 2005'

One of today's main Gamasutra features deals with the Second Annual Games for Change Conference, which was held at the City University of New York from October 21 to 22, ...
One of today's main Gamasutra features deals with the Second Annual Games for Change Conference, which was held at the City University of New York from October 21 to 22, and featured a group of like-minded designers, facilitators, and academics gathered to discuss ways that games can convey social messages and facilitate learning. In this extract from Rusel DeMaria's detailed write-up of the event, he covers the keynote on the first day of the event: "Clay Shirky, an adjunct professor in NYU's graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program and tech consultant, began the keynote by talking about the real value of games often being outside the game content. His first example was to talk about two games – the Antiwargame and a game called Killer. He criticized the Antiwargame from FutureFarmers, stating that it tended toward a stable and therefore uninteresting state if you simply cranked up the business/military budgets and sat back. He talked about the various parameters available to the player in the way it was set up. In contrast, he talked about Killer, “a very simple game where you have the option to increase your own point score or decrease the point score of the person in the lead by use of coalitions.” Shirky talks about the utter simplicity of the game and how it is far superior in his opinion, at stimulating interest and ad hoc coalition building. Since each player knows that he or she can be a target at any time, he called them “shifting coalitions.” “The formation of coalitions is not formal to the rules, but is implicit in the play.” In contrast, the Antiwargame offers a larger range of options, but nothing as interesting as Killer with almost no content, but a form that leads to collaboration. Shirky then talked about the importance of distinguishing form from content. “What a game says is not what it means. What it does is what it means.” He mentioned attempts at games with normative goals that fail because they are boring. Worse, when they fail they make the subject of the goal – say, racial tolerance – seem boring as well. He suggested taking the normative goal you wish to include in your game and making a game with almost no content – such as a card game or dice game. Make it almost content free. In essence, a game has to be a game first and the content must fit good design principles." You can now read the full Gamasutra feature on the subject, including plenty more detailed information on the two-day conference (no registration required, please feel free to link to the article from external websites).

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