September 18 2015 edition

Thanks to Ed Metz, David Rejeski, and Russell Shilling for contributions to this issue! Please forward us your news and favorites to the contact information shown at the bottom.

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

Fire Kids EditionAmazon announced a family of new hardware last week, including the Fire TV Gaming Edition, which includes a game controller; a $100 Fire Kids Edition 7-inch tablet; and a $50 budget 7-inch Fire tablet that includes a 1.3Ghz quad-core processor and 8GB of storage. Wow!

Jane McGonigal is in the midst of a tour promoting her book SuperBetter. Read an excerpt from her book on Gamasutra, or go see her speak in Seattle, Mountain View, Toronto, Nantucket (Nantucket?), Santa Cruz, Chicago, Portland, or Los Angeles.

Strange Loop Games’ Kickstarter for Eco completed at 200% of goal last week! Eco is a global survival game with Minecraft-like play and a vastly enhanced overarching policy structure that impacts gameplay. Check out Pixelkin’s review from PAX. Trailer.

We’ve mocked the pricy Philips Sonicare connected toothbrush for kids a few times, although secretly we want it to succeed as an unusual experiment in gamification. Apparently the game was too engaging, so the company recently updated it to add a time limit.

Yoan Fanise, director of Valiant Hearts, received some press this past week for his unique new game Lost in Harmony. The beautiful rhythm game has Miyazaki-inspired art and is designed to educate curious players about the history of Classical music. Trailer.

Thank You For PlayingThat Dragon, Cancer is a game in development that shares the developer’s experience of his son Ryan’s cancer battle. The documentary Thank You For Playing chronicles their life and experience; the movie was shown at PAX and reviewed by Ars.

The American Psychological Association recently updated its policy statement on video game violence and many of us reflexively disagreed with it. Chris Ferguson, Department Chair of Psychology at Stetson University, gives a reasoned and detailed analysis.

Samsung launched its annual Solve for Tomorrow contest, designed to increase STEM engagement, with $2 million in prizes. Five national teacher winners will be selected to receive $120,000 technology grants, with many smaller prizes.

Litesprite builds games and platforms to help people deal with mental health challenges. They are seeking FDA approval for their games, including Sinasprite, a game that helps players deal with stress relief and discover their inner calm. Trailer.

Science Sleuth is a campaign from 3M and DoSomething.org to increase interest in STEM fields among girls. The initiative includes a multiplayer SMS-based adventure game to get students involved. Text CLUE to 38383 to get started!

Osmo Numbers is the latest app for the intriguing Osmo hardware device, which attaches to your iPad to enable digital games with physical elements. The game uses the iPad camera to recognize number cards and teach simple math sense skills. Trailer.

Coding and Making

Ahmed MohamedHigh school student Ahmed Mohamed was arrested this week in Texas for bringing a clock to school that he had built. Apparently school officials thought it was a “hoax bomb” and police pulled him out of class and arrested him. Furious scientists and engineers came out in support using the hashtag #istandwithahmed. Within hours, Ahmed received offers to visit the White House, intern with Twitter, check out Facebook’s campus, and join the Google Science Fair. Keep Making, Ahmed. Keep Making.

New York City mayor Bill De Blasio announced a 10-year plan to teach computer science in all of the city’s schools. Currently just 10% of NYC schools offer classes in computer science. The effort includes $40 million from the NYC Department of Education and $40 million from the private sector through CSNYC, the Robin Hood Foundation, and the AOL Charitable Foundation. Video.

Microsoft pledged to invest $75 million over the next three years to increase access to computer science education for kids. The investment will expand Microsoft’s TEALS program, which pairs engineers with teachers, and also result in increased funding to relevant nonprofit organizations around the world.

In Germany, the Social Democratic Party, the country’s second-largest political party in Parliament, has recommended adding a mandatory computer science track to the school curriculum.

The BBC has launched the Doctor Who Game Maker tool, its latest effort to help teach coding to kids. The BBC has previously shipped a Doctor Who game that teaches coding, and also plans to ship the BBC Micro-Bit to all one million Year 7 students later this year.

PBS NewsHour talked with Code Like A Girl and Alexa Café participants about what it’s like for girls to learn game development, a heavily male-dominated field. These excellent girl-only computer camps aim to help balance the gender gap in the next generation.

Code BugHave you wished you could use Scratch to control your robot designs? Check out CodeBug, a low-cost computer aimed at the education market. Its block-based code environment even includes emulation of your CodeBug program prior to uploading to your robot!

Can unguided coding and making in the classroom help students learn concepts and become more creative? KQED covers the Turtle Art project at Lighthouse Community Charter, where students are given freedom to explore and find creative solutions to problems.

Do “geek chic” toys for girls encourage girls to explore STEM careers? Project MC2 is a three-part Netflix drama with four accompanying dolls that aims to encourage the next generation of girls to take up STEM subjects.

The 12th annual Cybersecurity Awareness Week is coming up in November, and NYU Polytechnic’s Computer Science Department is encouraging high school students to get involved in preliminary online contests leading up to the finals. Check the site for details!

Playables

ViridiViridi (PC, Mac) – A meditative potted plant app where you nurture a small pot of succulents in real time. Currently in development for desktop and mobile. What? Yup! Currently free on Steam. Video.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Lander (web) – How hard could it really be to land the Falcon 9 on a pad in the ocean after it returns from space? Well why don’t you give it a try? Video.

BlocksCAD (web) – Use a block-style language to play around with CAD in this educational tool. If you want, you can also switch it to code mode! Video.

Another Chance (web, Android) – The first-place winner of this year’s Jennifer Ann’s Group game design challenge. Another Chance is an emotional health and wellness game for teenagers that promotes awareness of teen dating violence and prevention.

Your Strategy Needs a Strategy (iOS) – This lemonade-stand game accompanies a Harvard Business Review piece on the power of playing games to become a better strategist. Play the game, read the article, watch the TED talk! Thanks to Serious Games Market.

Videos

Filament GamesG4C Industry Circle: Filament Games – Miss last week’s Games for Change Industry Circle hangout? Catch the re-run here with Filament’s Dan Norton and Dan White, and Games for Change’s Susanna Pollack.

Beyond the Desktop: The Potential of Additive Manufacturing – Curious about the potential of additive manufacturing processes like 3D printing? Learn more in this video from the Wilson Center’s Science & Technology Innovation Program.

Super Mario is a refugee, too – Syrian Samir al-Mufti created a parody video utilizing Super Mario Bros to highlight the dangers that Syrian refugees are facing when trying to reach the European Union. Washington Post article.

Miyamoto on World 1-1 – Eurogamer interviewed Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka and asked them to walk us through the design of the first level of Super Mario Bros.

Tearaway PlayStation4 – The Japanese launch video for the PS4 version of Tearaway is wacky and has a song that you won’t be able to get out of your head for an hour. But you should definitely watch it!

Conferences

SIEGE – Southern Interactive Entertainment and Game Expo. Atlanta, GA. October 9-11.

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.

Grace Hopper Conference – A celebration of women in computing. Houston, TX. October 14-16.

IEEE Games Entertainment Media – How games transform edu and culture. Toronto, ON. October 14-16.

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

Mozilla Festival – Forging the future of the web. London, UK. November 6-8.

Practice – High-quality game design conference for pro designers. New York, NY. November 13-15.

Resources

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