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Festival Spotlights Video Games That Help Teach Social Lessons

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They can draw kids in for hours at a time, so how can video games be used for good? The Games for Change Festival tries to answer that question by spotlighting games being used as a tool to help teach some of the most serious social lessons. NY1's Adam Balkin filed the following report.

As a parent, it's kind of like somehow turning your worst enemy into a powerful ally. That enemy turned ally is video games, and the annual Games for Change Festival celebrates that conversion, spotlighting games being used as a tool to help teach some of the most serious social lessons.

"We are looking at games beyond entertainment, so how much you can take this really powerful medium and, you know, use it in health or education, or tackling some of the real tough problems of the world today," says Asi Burak of Games for Change.

While most games here do teach, there are those like SideKick Cycle that instead let you do some actual help while playing. One allows you to contribute towards buying a real-world bicycle for a child in need.

"Everything that they buy inside the game, whether it's a really cute sidekick or a new bike or new levels, half of the money goes directly toward the charity partner, in this case, Free Bikes for Kids," says Elizabeth Sarquis of Global Gaming Initiative.

One of the biggest changes for the Games for Change Festival itself is that it's now part of the Tribeca Film Festival, proof of just how widespread and accepted this whole movement has become.

Barry Joseph, who's here on behalf of the American Museum of Natural History showing off an augmented reality card game teaching users about Pterosaurs, was one of the original founders of the festival 11 years ago, when it was 42 people in a tiny room for half a day.

"So not only has the festival grown from about 40 to 800 people, from a half day to a four-day event, but we've seen games go from something that people were kind of embarrassed talking about, that was on the fringe, to part of the mainstream," Joseph says. "People know that games are a very powerful tool for engaging young people, and all we're trying to figure out now is how we do it, what are the best practices, and how do we find the best people to do it with."

To learn more about the festival, or to try out some of the games, most of which are free to play, head over to gamesforchange.org.

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