By Danny Castillo
It wasn’t an in-person experience this year. Last week’s Games for Change 2020 festival, under the guidance of Susanna Pollack, became an online experience due to the coronavirus. And the result was impressive. These three days of talks and games with a message proved not only that there are some great indie games in the pipeline. They proved how nowadays the video games industry is evolving and improving.
One example of game evolution came when Ziba Scott from Popcannibal Games spoke about her “Kind Words” project, which was released in late 2019. In “Kind Words,” people express their general concerns and worries via a note, and get a message including good advice or uplifting words of support for the sender. Ziba Scott said, “This is a game where people write what they worry about and receive advice from anonymous (people).” It made me want to play immediately.
Just a little of everything took place during this great event where they highlighted superior, new ideas from game developers working toward making everyone enjoy and learn. For example, Megan Lawrence, who is a senior of accessibility evangelist in gaming at Microsoft, talked about how Microsoft developed the Xbox adaptive controller to help people with disabilities to better enjoy and learn from games. It’s not just a product that comes out and it’s done, she said. Microsoft continues to help those who are disabled beyond the release.
Another panel that caught my attention during this event included Nichol Bradford, Brie Code and Chethan Ramachandran. Called Worldgames, where the three discussed the benefits that we can take from games and how we can take advantage of those benefits in real life. I felt this was very topical in this time of quarantine where some cannot go outside.
Each day continued to enlighten me. For example, Amir Bozorgzadeh is using VR games to help people train for mental and physical fitness. In Enhance, users can work out their body while playing and get exercise, or as Amir’s website says, “train various cognitive skills like memory, problem solving, spatial orientation, and motor control.”
Another thing that grabbed my attention during this online event was when Stephanie Harvey, the professional gamer and Ubisoft game designer, was talking about how gaming changed her life. Harvey won five world championships in Counter-Strike and CS:GO, which is amazing. Harvey said, “One big thing for me is that there is not online borders. Gamer 1 and Gamer 2 can be in the opposite of world and interact with each other in events with completely different time of clock.” This means that during an online game people share regardless of where they are. At its best, the world of gaming could be the bridge to overcome the segregation that is affecting our society today. At its best, gaming can make people understand how everyone, at their core, is equal, and no one is better than anyone else.
Danny Castillo is graduating from the Bronx’s Ellis Prep Academy. He’s been accepted to the Marist College Class of ‘24, majoring in computer science, game development and emerging media.