Games for Change Festival, an annual festival highlighting games and tech that deliver positive social impact, closed out its second day on a high note, hosting many panels that highlight innovation and evolution in the industry.

Anne Del Castillo, the Commissioner of New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, opened the day. She talked about how the mayor’s office is promoting media and entertainment in the city in order to support the economy, promote jobs, and push innovation. Recent initiatives such as rLab were discussed.

Going off of that, the Chief Engagement Officer of the Barack Obama Foundation, Michael Strautmanis, discussed the foundation’s work to “inspire, empower, and connect people to change the world.”

“Esports: Compete Play and Social Good” featured Maya Kushner, Nathan Lindberg, Gerald Solomon, and Ben Nichol.

A hot topic on day two was esports, which saw NASEF revealing very positive results about levels of diversity, inclusion, and STEAM learning in its high clubs. There was also a panel titled “Esports: Competitive Play and Social Good,”* where professionals from across the industry discussed esports: everything from what defines esports to how to foster inclusivity within esports. Elsewhere, esports were examined by actual middle schoolers who are involved or interested in the burgeoning area of play.

Leo Olebe of Facebook Games and Brent Bushnell of Two Bit Circus gave separate, but related, keynote speeches. Olebe focused on meaningful change in the growing gaming community, citing the 700 million people who play and engage with games on Facebook. He stressed the need that this sort of power has to be used for positive social change. Brent Bushnell, in his keynote speech, talked about examples of entertainment as “prototype for research in areas such as empathy, memory, and physical exertion” both now and in the future. He compared the current innovation VR and XR is going through to movies in the twenties and computers in the seventies.

Meanwhile, many other panels and talks ran, and a play arcade was set up elsewhere in the venue. This arcade included demos of some of the nominated (and winning) games from Games For Change’s annual awards, and others. There is always a mix of more traditional games, VR and XR experiences, and tech for attendees to try out in the arcade.

Games For Change Festival 2019 ran from June 17 to June 19 at The New School in New York City. For more information on the organization and its festival, you can check out our hub page for the festival, as well as Game For Change’s website.

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