Digital Learning

SCE partner Games for Change challenges youth to make digital games about real-world issues

Games for Change, the leading organization dedicated to celebrate the power of digital games for learning and civic engagement, has teamed up with the NYC Department of Education for a game design challenge for public middle and high school students citywide.

In the NYC Games for Change Student Challenge, students are invited to design and code original digital games about social issues in their local communities, based on five themes. The themes and their affiliated sponsors are:

  • Animal Welfare (A Kinder World Foundation)
  • Smart Cities (Mayor’s Office of Technology & Innovation)
  • Civic Journalism (The New York Times)
  • Literacy (XPRIZE Foundation)
  • Youth Justice (ACLU)

The theme partners provide multimedia assets for students to use in their games, and facilitate in-person meet-ups to give students opportunities to interface with experts in the field and connect their game making to issues they care about.

To prepare students for the Challenge, 20 NYC public school teachers have received training and financial support to run game design courses using the Globaloria blended learning platform, teaching their students how to code digital games. Professional game designers will mentor these students throughout their game making process.

Students can work either individually or as a team of up to four. A jury of top game developers and social innovators will evaluate submissions and select the winners. Prizes, which include paid internships and mentorship opportunities with game studios, will be presented at an awards ceremony at the Museum of the Moving Image in March 2016. The winning games will be unveiled there in a public exhibition, and featured at the Games for Change Arcade at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. The deadline to submit games is January 30, 2016.

Melissa Tortora, who teaches 9th grade English at Hudson High School of Learning Technologies in Chelsea, is one of the teachers who has gone through the game design training. “Game design does not necessarily require a technology background or advanced math skills,” she commented. “What it is about most is logical thinking. I’m excited to share what I’ve learned with my students and to see what they come up as they enter the competition.”

The Challenge is being developed and hosted by Games for Change in collaboration with the NYC Department of Education through two innovation initiatives, iZone and Digital Ready, and leaders in the social impact games sector Globaloria, Institute of Play and the Museum of the Moving Image. A consortium of cross-sector partners is providing additional resources, prizes, and expertise, including leading game platform Unity and digital learning advocate Susan Crown Exchange.

Throughout the Challenge, Students will develop 21st-century skills such as systems thinking, problem solving, and inquiry-based learning through hands-on, collaborative learning experiences. Teachers are empowered to use game design as a teaching tool, and provided with professional development and in-class support. NYC communities will benefit from increased civic engagement and awareness around social issues.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with organizations committed to bringing digital gaming into classrooms and after-school programs,” says Susanna Pollack, Acting President of Games for Change. “This winning combination of games and social change is core to G4C’s mission and we look forward to bringing the Challenge program to other cities in following years.”

For more information or to submit a game to the Challenge, visit