Games for Change: First Experience

July 3, 2019
Company & Technologyliz Gross

Games for Change 2019 & XR4C Summit: First Experience

We began our Games for Change (G4C) adventure with a quintessential New York City taxi ride! We were treated to fast driving and loud talking from the airport to Manhattan, as we sweated it out in the stuffy back seat. We then arrived at Parson’s College of Design, an amazing piece of architecture in Manhattan, to a super smooth check-in and got ready for a week of learning how games and game developers can drive real-world social impact.

The Alchemie team was represented at G4C by me, our lead artist, and Kep Amun, our lead developer. Our goal was to discover how others were solving similar problems in the education space and to try out new technology, both hardware and software systems, to be ready to take our learning tools to the next level.

The ride into Manhattan

I have to mention a small part of the food culture in the NYC area as it is truly one of a kind. I gave a “pizza”  heart away to New York style pizza from Ray’s Pizza and Bagels in East Village. Sorry Detroit style!

Inside Ray's Pizza & Bagel Cafe

XR for Change

The first unofficial day of the G4C Festival is the XR for Change Summit (XR4C). This is a separate part of the event focusing on XR (Virtual Reality, Mixed Reality/Augmented Reality) development and the way it is changing how we interact with the world around us. Demos, talks, workshops and the immersive arcade were definitely worth the extra day in the city. The keynote speakers, which I will discuss in more extensive detail in my “Powering up Edtech” blog series, focused on the development of XR experiences, how to design for them, and introduced innovative ways to enhance educational games and tools with XR technology

Nancy Baker Cahill presenting at G4C

During XR4C I was  very excited to finally use a Magic Leap One headset that was available for demo in the Immersive Arcade. I’ve been pining over this device after seeing great reviews and stories about it in my newsfeed. The Magic Leap One is an Augmented Reality (AR) headset that utilizes computer vision and spatial audio for a unique blend of AR with reality. Magic Leap defines its headset as “Lightwear,” first, because it works with your eyes and natural lighting to produce seamless AR, but also for the comfort of wearing this device! I was very happy with how lightweight it was. I did not feel the need to constantly adjust or have marks on my face after using the Magic Leap One, which typically happens when wearing VR headsets.  


We got to explore the world of Create developed by Magic Leap Studios. Here you get to produce your own world, like building a forest around your feet and adding cute characters and creatures that can interact with each other. Want fish in your forest? Go ahead! The interactions between the characters I plopped into existence really won me over.


Kep demoing the Magic Leap One headset while receiving instruction

G4C Day 1 & 2: 

The days following the XR4C summit were the actual Games for Change festival. It was an overload of amazing speakers from game industry professionals to psychologists and research professionals. We had to be on top of the schedule during the festival, as many of the great presentations overlapped. Below are lessons learned from the G4C experience, with special emphasis on using games for impacting educational outcomes.

Key Takeaways

  1. Master utilizing Points of Interest and spatial sound design in a VR experience to enhance viewer immersion (Jessica Brillhart)
  2. AR is a whole other reality we can use to offer teaching moments or experiences for everyone. Think about community issues and how you can use accessible public spaces and AR to develop or express the local culture (Nancy Baker Cahill).
  3. Use smart solutions to manage inappropriate behavior and humanize digital interactions, like adding eyes on avatars (Brittan Heller), and take responsibility for developing technology by deploying XR and business tools from the start so abuse does not happen down the line (Rori Duboff).
  4. Consumers value experiences over things. Create experiences not only to solve issues but be mindful of how people want to interact and play (Brent Bushnell).
  5. Design with empathy in mind. Overload of emotional or touchy situations can lead to distress and everyone has a different history. The player has the right to know immediately what they are in for and should be given options to opt out of certain content (Kelli Dunlap).
  6. Regarding education, don’t throw money into a system that is broken. Be disruptive, experiment with game pedagogy learning assessment. Look for ways to build student confidence and give them the freedom to practice (Anantha Duraiappah)
  7. No one will want to play an educational game that is not fun, if it is a game it HAS to be fun. The vast majority of social impact games do not do this. Don’t make the gameplay feel forced (James Vaughan).

For a more detailed look into G4C and how we can begin to implement them into educational game/tool design look out for my “Powering Up Edtech” blog series by subscribing to our newsletter.

Each year, the Games for Change Festival showcases how the gaming industry can make a real impact for good in the world. This event’s mission is “to help people learn, improve their communities, and contribute to make the world a better place.” We are honored to be part of the G4C mission!

liz Gross
Co- Author

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