Sessions at SXSW Interactive 2011 about Games for Social Impact

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Friday 11th March 2011

  • Death of the Textbook, Emergence of Games

    by Alan Gershenfeld, Sara DeWitt and James M. Bower

    Textbooks published on trees are on the way out in Texas, California and the rest of the country and world.

    The Textbook industry is hoping they will be replaced with on-line versions spruced up with animated graphics. However, it is likely that on-line textbooks will be no more successful than magazine advertising that morphed into banner ads. Linear content with multiple choice answers at the end of each chapter, won't work. And as with banner ads, on the Internet you can measure that they don't work.

    What does work? Socially networked GAMES. The question for this panel is whether games will replace traditional educational media, and what those games look like.

    What will the teachers manual look like? How will learning be assessed? What happens to the classroom, or the school itself, when on-line learning is available 24/7? What does the PTA look like if parents can play along with their kids?

    What happens to the distinction between vocational and instructional if playing games is equivalent to performing a virtual job or service? And what happens to the college admission process, if instead of taking a standardized aptitude test, students have been playing a complex game for years. In fact, what happens to colleges and universities where lecture halls still reign supreme?

    There is a revolution underway, driven by kids and the games they play. Will the educational system adapt or die? We will see (and discuss).

    LEVEL: Beginner

    At 2:00pm to 3:00pm, Friday 11th March

    In Sabine, Hilton Garden Inn Austin Downtown

  • Gamechanging: Turn Your App Into A Cooperative Game

    by Buster Benson and Thor Muller

    Game mechanics aren't just for games anymore. Designers of all social apps increasingly depend on gameplay to motivate users, and direct them towards goals. Organizations, too, use games to engage employees and customers to encourage full participation. Many familiar game mechanics are deeply rooted in competition, pitting people against each other using familiar elements like leaderboards and zero-sum rewards. But there's an alternative: cooperative games provide a wholly different palette to product designers that want to put their users on the same side of a goal.

    Cooperative games are one way to build a smarter social web, one which organizes people to work together to accomplish really big things.

    In this highly interactive session we'll actually play a cooperative game to demonstrate how they work. We'll trace these dynamics as they appear in board games (Pandemic, Lord of the Rings), knowledge games used in organizations for brainstorming and planning ("Gamestorming"), and social Web apps (KickStarter, Get Satisfaction).

    The session will explore the specific mechanics that make this such an effective method for inspiring group performance.
    - Victory conditions
    - External conflicts
    - Roles & special powers
    - Required sharing
    - Coordination & planning
    - And occasionally...Traitors!

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 2:00pm to 3:00pm, Friday 11th March

    In Room 12AB, Austin Convention Center

  • Social Games: Manipulating Your Brain Chemistry, For Good

    by Margaret Wallace, Adam Penenberg, Jason Brown, Brenda Gershkovitch and Michael Fergusson

    Generally speaking, there's an assumption that casual games are a waste of time. What can playing a "meaningless" Facebook game for a few minutes really accomplish, anyways? Do I really need to "rescue" another "sheep"? Another point of view is that they're a little bit sinister, manipulating you into emptying your wallet, or giving up personal information. But perhaps both positions are missing the point. This new genre we call "Casual Social Games" represents a fascinating opportunity to better understand our own behavior, and to direct it, intentionally, for our own benefit, and for the greater good of society.

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 3:30pm to 4:30pm, Friday 11th March

    In Ballroom B, Austin Convention Center

Saturday 12th March 2011

Monday 14th March 2011

  • Games: Tools For Mass Communication

    by Benjamin Taylor, Michael Agustin and Brett A McCall

    Art, education, economics, propaganda. Games are arriving at the forefront of media to become an important way to engage entire generations of people. What's different from before? Five billion people are replacing the most common communication device, the simple cell phone, with a full-fledged gaming system in their pocket. There are multiple ways to publish and distribute games over the Internet and to the masses. For many, game creation is becoming a regular activity, as tools become both easier to use and more powerful for people without programming knowledge. This panel will cover unique perspectives on how games are becoming more meaningful forms of expression and a significant tool for communicating ideas.

    LEVEL: Beginner

    At 11:00am to 12:00pm, Monday 14th March

    In Ballroom C, Austin Convention Center

    Coverage sketch note

Tuesday 15th March 2011

  • 1UP! Games for Change

    by Brynn Evans and Jude Ower

    Me: So you want to save the world, right?
    You: Totally. What's your plan?
    Me: We build an app that uses game design to motivate people to do good: conserve energy, change their behavior, etc.
    You: Perfect. Let's copy Foursquare! Points, badges — people love that shit.
    Me: Be careful — games can be gimmicky. Points and badges are only a superficial aspect of what makes Foursquare successful. Plus, they quickly tire on you.
    You: Huh.
    Me: I'm not talking FarmVille either. It's not about games for the sake of games, but thinking about how to use different game mechanics, how they are right for different audiences, and in different social contexts. Some users want to play for the sake of playing; others like competition; still others like to work together.
    You: Got an example?
    Me: I was recently part of a design challenge for reducing paper cup waste. We wanted to get people involved in saving trees without forgoing their morning cup o' joe. But the solution won't be another reusable mug — people forget those all the time. Instead, we tried to change behavior using a game. We'll explain more on the panel but you get the idea.
    You: So the Drive Less Challenge to encourage alternatives to driving alone is another example?
    Me: You got it! The goal of this panel is consider a variety of games and game aspects for the design of a common good. And to think about how the user base and social dynamics of the community affect the decision to pick one kind of game over another.

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 5:00pm to 6:00pm, Tuesday 15th March

    In Room 6AB, Austin Convention Center