March 18 2016 edition

Thanks to Yoan Fanise, Deena Minwalla, Leslie Redd, Sheri Rubin, Russ Shilling, and Constance Steinkuehler for sending contributions to this issue! Please forward us your news and favorites to the contact information shown at the bottom.


GDC 2016Last week was the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, and that means lots of great games and game technology news! In the awards, the game Her Story took home the IGF Seamus McNally Grand Prize. We’ve previously covered the game’s creative way of engaging the player through taped murder confessions. Tracy Fullerton, director of USC’s Game Innovation Lab and creator of the game Walden, won the GDC Ambassador Award. You can find a list of all the award winners here.

Virtual Reality games were a huge hit at the show. Sony announced that its PlayStation VR headset (formerly Project Morpheus) will launch in October for $399. A bundle with the required camera and Move controllers will cost $500. In comparison, the Oculus Rift will sell for $599, and the HTC Vive will retail at $799. It is truly the year of VR!

Game engines were also a popular topic of conversation.. Unity added a certification program for developers. Amazon’s Lumberyard bumped to Beta 1.1 and had its coming out party with a big booth at the conference. Crytek revealed that CryEngine 5 will be released under a “pay what you want” model.

Former GlassLab Games Creative Director Michael John gave a speech at GDC encouraging game developers to get involved with making games for impact. He called out organizations that are funding games and game competitions, as well as this newsletter and his Games Make Good Facebook group.

Learning games accelerator co.lab recently announced its fifth cohort. Companies like Kindoma, Lab4U, and School of Games are just a few of the latest group of companies to work as part of the Zynga-hosted lab.

KQED Mind/Shift is hosting its 2016 Tech Tool Tourney, highlighting games! It is now in the second round of voting. Visit the site to choose your favorite games for education.

The Lego Foundation asserts that kids learn best through play (as opposed to formal teaching) up until about age eight. Play can include digital means, but learning should be based on whole-child development and not just “sitting at a desk”.

Palestinian secondary school teacher Hanan Al Hroub has won the 2nd annual Global Teaching Prize, which includes one million dollars! Her teaching style emphasizes social-emotional skills to reduce aggression, and focuses on play. Video.

Coding and Making

Hackaday Prize 2016The Hackaday Prize 2016 competition has launched, with over $300,000 in prizes planned. Propose and pitch ideas that change the world. Recruit others to your cause. Then bootstrap a prototype!

The review period for the K-12 CS Framework full draft has begun. Check out this first full draft and submit your thoughts by April 5!

The Games for Change Climate Challenge is underway, with a prize of $10,000 for the digital game that best engages players in understanding ways to address climate change. Deadline for submissions is May 6.

Eric Roberts at Stanford has analyzed the history of capacity challenges in university computer science programs in the United States. As we move into a third wave of interest in computer science, can we grow our university program capacities quickly enough to address it? Read this enlightening post to learn more about previous waves and what we can do better this time.

The 2016 Allen Distinguished Educators Awards celebrate teachers doing pioneering work in education. Most of the seven teachers awarded this year lead innovative computer science or engineering programs.

AARP and the Entertainment Software Association have announced the Social Connection Game Jam, a student game jam this April focused on creating games that reach seniors over 50 and that encourage social connections.

Excel Public Charter School is an innovative school working to integrate computational thinking into all aspects of its programs: from orchestra class to English. Learn more in this interesting article on The Seventy Four.

How can we teach our teachers how to code? The Computer Science For All initiative encourages a dramatic increase in K-12 computer science education, highlighting the need to get creative about how we teach our three million public school teachers about computer science. FastCompany details a few ideas, including utilizing coding bootcamps and integrating coding into other STEM courses.

As 3D printers become more affordable, using them for education becomes more feasible. The Wall Street Journal takes a look at a new wave of inexpensive 3D printers, and the challenges and opportunities they bring forth.


Lost in HarmonyLost in Harmony (iOS, Android) – A touching game from the creator of Valiant Hearts. Kaito and Aya work to cope with serious illness while skateboarding through a beautiful music-driven landscape. Video.


Satoru Iwata tributeSatoru Iwata GDC Awards Tribute – This beautiful animation celebrating the life and passing of Nintendo’s CEO Satoru Iwata was presented at last week’s Game Developers Choice Awards.

DragonBox Numbers: Run! activity – A fun new activity with the Nooms was added to DragonBox Numbers recently. Use your fingers on the screen to guide your Nooms, reinforcing number sense!

What is Computer Science Principles? – CS Principles is a new AP course designed to introduce students to the field of computer science. Check out this video for an overview.

Can you fold paper more than 7 times – Have you heard that you can’t fold paper more than seven times? What if you had a hydraulic press? (Language warning!) This Popular Science article attempts to explain what happens in the video.


NSTA National Conference – Annual conference for the National Science Teachers Association. Nashville, TN. March 31-April 3.
Games and Media Summit – A day-long event at the Tribeca Film Festival, from Games for Change! New York, NY. April 18.
Scratch Day – Global network of events celebrating the Scratch programming environment. Worldwide. May 14.
XTech 2016 – The Experiential Technology & NeuroGaming Conference and Expo. San Francisco, CA. May 17-18.
National Week of Making – A US-wide celebration of all things Maker, June 17-23, with the National Maker Faire in Washington DC, June 18-19.
Games for Change – The 13th annual conference for using games for change. New York, NY. June 23-24.


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