September 11 2015 edition

Thanks to Mary Beth DeLoura, Shalom Mann, Russell Shilling, and Meghan Ventura for contributions to this issue! Please forward us your news and favorites to the contact information shown at the bottom.

Games for Change is running another Industry Circle Hangout this week! Check out their hangout with Filament Games on September 17 at 2pm Eastern. If you’re in NYC, Jane McGonigal (SuperBetter) is giving several lectures this week, on the 15th and 16th (coming soon to other cities). If you’re in Chicago, don’t forget the Games for Change Cities of Learning Arcade coming September 19 at the Back to School Jam.

The Climate Game Jam is coming October 2-4 to a site near you! Participants in the jam will create prototypes that allow players to learn about climate change through science-based experiences.

Games for Impact

Gamasutra and the Game Developers Conference kindly shared my GDC 2015 presentation “A View from the White House” this past week. Watch it to learn more about the games work we did!

PAX Prime recently took place, it’s the largest event in North America for game players, not just game developers. Check out these amazing pictures from Ars, and Pixelkin’s take on the games to watch for.

Apple announced a bunch of new hardware! Check out the huge iPad Pro, plus Pencil and Smart Keyboard. There are new iPhones of course, and the unveiling of a new Apple TV (hm, games?)

Microsoft added cross-playform play between the Windows 10 and Pocket editions of Minecraft. Here’s one teacher’s experience of bringing Minecraft to the classroom and the surprising lessons learned (this is an article on the ISTE site from last year but it was new to me!)

Nintendo and the Pokémon Company are teaming up with Niantic (makers of Google’s Ingress) on Pokémon Go, an augmented reality game which brings Pokémon into the real world. Check out the video! I’m excited to see if this inspires kids to exercise more, as the Pokéwalker did.

Planet3 has raised $10 million in investment to focus on using games to teach science to K-12 students. Wow! The new company is helmed by Tim Kelly, former head of the National Geographic Society.

The game Playing History 2: Slave Trade stirred some aggravation, with one of the mini-games being best described as “tone deaf” on Gamasutra. Kotaku covered the controversy.

Did you line up to buy “the coolest Star Wars Toy EVER”? Sphero launched a mini version of the BB-8 Droid from the upcoming Star Wars movie and the Internetz erupted in joy. See puppy video below.

Game developers around the world are teaming up to raise money for War Child by throwing a game jam! Games resulting from the jam will be sold digitally to raise money for the youth charity.

Curious how you might get a grant for your game from the National Endowment of the Arts or other art-related funds? This Gamasutra piece goes into some background and details a few success stories.

Should parents play videogames with their children? Of course! The Wall Street Journal thinks so too. Parents who grew up on Pong and Frogger are now finding games a great way to bond with their kids.

The University of Western Sydney’s Heartbeat program wondered: could they use a video game to reach Aboriginal kids in Australia and teach them about health, fitness, and their own culture? They teamed up with Digital Eskimo to build Lightning Runner. Check out the trailer, or play the game!

Independent game developer Anna Anthropy (creator of dys4ia) was hit by a car over the summer and broke her arm. In response, she built “Ohmygod are you alright”, an autobiographical empathy game.

Ever wondered what arcade games were like in the Soviet Union? Well wonder no more! Can we go?

Coding and Making

Great news for Raspberry Pi owners – there’s now an official 7” display for the Pi! Check out the 800×480 full-color LCD with 10-point multi-touch. Take my money! Launch video. and its partners have so far trained 15,000 K-12 teachers to teach computer science in the classroom utilizing its CS Fundamentals curriculum and pilot courses. Wow!

Last newsletter we pointed you toward Pixar in a Box, an impressive new Khan Academy course. KQED Mind/Shift had a closer look at the material and lesson guides, and interviewed some of the creators.

The Economist took a crack at explaining, “What is code?” It’s a good – if short – article.

Peter Moore, COO of Electronic Arts, gave an interview to Fortune advocating for diversity in the game industry. According to Moore, 40% of the development team for The Sims is women.

Speaking of tech diversity, Slack posted its diversity numbers last week. Their engineering team is 18% female, mirroring many other tech companies. We sure appreciate seeing companies post their stats!

HuffPo ran an article on why our daughters should play more video games. Yes please! According to the piece, and a quote from Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, games are the gateway to computer science.

VentureBeat interviewed Adriana Gascoigne, founder of Girls In Tech. The nonprofit group encourages the empowerment, engagement, and education of girls and women in technology.

Alumni of CodeNow have begun making short introductory coding videos (#CodeHow) to help encourage underrepresented groups to give coding a try. Check out a few of them here!

Speaking of tech diversity, Intel is sponsoring a “Gaming For Everyone” Pavilion at IndieCade in October. The pavilion will showcase ten orgs or individuals whose work contributes to game industry diversity.

CodeSpark (maker of The Foos) says coding for kids is not a fad! interviewed CEO Grant Hosford, who thinks that leveraging technology to solve problems is becoming increasingly vital.

Have you played Super Mario Maker yet? Check out one parent’s experience playing with his two-year-olds, who have decided they want to make their OWN levels.

Did you ever play Robot Turtles, the excellent computer science board game? You may also appreciate the new board game Code Master. It’s for kids 8+. . . but. . . you know.


Javvy (iOS, Android) – Want to learn how to program in Java? Try Javvy, the mobile app with 150 bite-sized interactive tutorials. Based off the company’s app Swifty, which taught Apple’s Swift language.

The Pixel Factory (web) – This WebGL-based presentation aims to teach you how pixels are rendered, and some of the math behind computer graphics. It is extremely impressive technically!

Sage Solitaire (iOS) – Zach Gage, developer of SpellTower and collaborator on Ridiculous Fishing, brings a fun Boggle-like angle to Solitaire. Make as many hands as you can with the cards you’ve got! Video.

A Visual Introduction to Machine Learning (web) – How do statistical learning techniques work? This article has fantastic dynamic visuals that help explain this aspect of machine learning.

RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 (iOS) – Many of us have spent way too many hours building roller coasters on PC. Now you can also build coasters on your iPhone and iPad with this port of the original game! Video.

Star Wars: Uprising (iOS, Android) – Here come the Star Wars games! Uprising is a free-to-play RPG that takes place just after the events of Return of the Jedi, setting the stage for the new movie. Yay! Video.


Want Kids to Learn? Make Video Games. – This video from XPRIZE says learning needs to be more like Angry Birds. Yes please!

Scratch Video Update Ep. 10 – The MIT Scratch Team reports on the Scratch Conference in Amsterdam as well as current happenings in the Scratch community. Episode 10? I’ve got some catching up to do!

Loki Lego Launcher – High altitude balloon – Two amazing young girls build a balloon to send a lolcat and R2D2 toy to space. Of course, they record the whole process and the trip! STEM for the win!

How Can We Include Students With Disabilities in Computing Courses? – The DO-IT Center at U. of Washington strives to increase participation of individuals with disabilities in academic programs.

Puppies Test The New Star Wars BB-8 Droid Toy – Because puppies. And BB-8!

How “oldschool” graphics work, part 2 – Apple and Atari – Why does text on the Apple II look slightly violet or green? This excellent series teaches you the technology behind 1980’s-era computer graphics.

Pikachu Dances Super Junior “Devil” – The madness continues!!


Tokyo Game Show – Japan’s largest consumer games expo. Tokyo, Japan. September 17-20.

GamesBeat – Game industry leadership/business conference. Redwood City, CA. October 12-13.

Sandbox West – Exploring the landscape of interconnected play. Los Angeles, CA. October 12-13.

Indiecade 2015 – Largest celebration of independent games in the U.S. Los Angeles, CA. October 22-25.


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