We’re excited to share a new project to get at the big picture, recognizing the growing breadth of games, and seeking new coherence in describing their impact. Better guidelines are needed to evaluate which games deserve funding, how to measure and define success, and how to integrate game design with research.

Some of the problem:

  • we are missing a shared language of impact
  • inconsistent impact claims are marginalizing some games, and some game developers
  • the gulf between research and practice is growing as silos begin to deepen

The collective “we” of the project includes an advisory board chaired by Benjamin Stokes, Games for Change under the leadership of Asi Burak and Susanna Pollack, and researchers at the Michael Cohen Group led by Gerad O’Shea.  For more, see our full team.

Check out our advisory and collaborators!

Project Values

Inclusive. Rather than narrow the scope of the project and provide a clean narrative of how to move forward in one sector (e.g. health games) or for one stakeholder group (e.g. game developers), this project will include and engage individuals from across the range of stakeholder groups, sectors, content areas, and expertise to accommodate a broad set of goals, methods, and outcomes. Further, the project will build on the theoretical models developed by researchers in gaming, film, and other related fields (see Why Typologies), incorporating primary source material, and interviews with key members of the community (see Who is Involved). The purpose is to expand social impact game design and evaluation beyond  a particular content area, and give the full social impact game community the resources to utilize new approaches and supplement their existing methods.

Transparent. In an effort to model the process that this project advocates, we will attempt to clearly identify our assumptions, methods, and biases, both in this report and throughout the process. This includes the methods in which the project is being conducted, the reasons for its creation, and the objectives it aims to accomplish. Through transparency, we aim to increase communication with community members, promote accountability in achieving the project goals, and foster greater openness in discussing process and method. To that end, the core assumptions behind this project include the following:

  •      Social impact games will benefit from increased communication and collaboration between key stakeholders.
  •      Stakeholders from different sectors would benefit from sharing best practices in design, impact measurement, and dissemination.
  •      All stakeholders would benefit from specifying the type of impact that their game seeks to achieve.

Facilitative. The project will illuminate the working dynamics between different stakeholders, sectors, and disciplines in the social impact game community in order to capitalize on shared goals and increase collaboration. We propose to seek common ground around a more coherent umbrella for social impact with games. This is not intended to be an abstract exercise, but a pragmatic conversation about practical heuristics, models and framing to guide strategy. The project will focus  on the ‘big picture’ issues of the community without assigning blame or claiming to be an absolute authority.

Evidenced. The project will be informed by research conducted by the Michael Cohen Group. When we make claims about the community, we will use observation and empirical evidence to support those claims. This approach will mirror the methods we will suggest to support impact.

Accessible. The project will frame existing content and methods, and expand upon that content to pragmatically benefit the community, without relying on jargon or subjective language. The project’s content will become an approachable, unified entry point into the social impact games community, through which stakeholders and potential collaborators can build partnerships and share ideas. In addition, we will provide case studies in which game creators aligned their evaluation methods to a specific outcome goal.

Visible. The authors, together with creative partners and sponsors, will disseminate content utilizing multiple platforms and information pathways. In addition, the project will be a focus at the 2015 Games for Change festival, ensuring the content has a real-world forum to be discussed and expanded upon.