November 9, 2023
Over the first weekend of October 2023, more than 30 students came together to tackle some tough subjects – and to create games to address them -- as part of the Games4SocialImpact 2023 event at the School of Computing and Information. Games4SocialImpact, now in its 6th year, brings together graduate and undergraduate students to design either online or tabletop games that explore or educate people about societal challenges. From Friday night to Sunday afternoon (October 6 - 8, 2023), the seven teams of students selected their topics, designed their games, and built them for testing by a team of faculty and technology professionals and mentors.
For 2023, the games explored topics around aging including aspects such a repressed memories of traumatic childhoods, diet and agricultural support for well-being as one ages, aging gracefully, dealing with loss of loved ones, physical therapy treatments for aging individuals with neurological conditions, rediscovering the friendships of one’s youth, and continuing to pursue one’s goals. This year’s entries were all online games using elements of live-role-playing, alternate reality, virtual reality, and mobile games. The student teams were mentored by Pitt faculty from the School of Computing and Information and the Department of English, as well as experts from regional and national AR/VR technology companies.
The event awards prizes for excellence in different aspects of game design and building. For 2023, the mentors selected the following teams/games for recognition:
- Jammers award: Memoriam
- Judges award: Immorticulture
- Best narrative award: Grandpa is gone
- Best art: The Cheezard
- First Penguin award: Bon Voyage
The student teams will continue to work on developing and refining the games: even though the event is a three-day marathon, such complicated creations require more time to fully realize the teams’ visions!
Games4SocialImpact was developed by SCI faculty member, Dmitriy Babichenko, who has managed the event since its creation. PhD student Pat Healy and part-time instructor Brandon Hedges (a professional from the AR/VR industry) also helped to organize the event and mentored students. It is hosted by the School of Computing and Information at Pitt, and this year’s event was sponsored by SCI’s Departments of Informatics and Networked Systems and Department of Computer Science; Pitt’s Center for Behavioral Health and Smart Technology; Pitt’s Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences; Serious Play; and the Etudes Center.
Thanks to all of the participants, mentors, and judges for making Games4SocialImpact 2023 a huge success!