Games for Change Launches Accelerator for ‘Social Impact’ Gaming in K-12

Contributing Writer

Game developers focused on influencing the classroom experience are among those eligible for funding and support from a new accelerator launched by Games for Change.

In partnership with i(x) investments, a social impact investment firm, and Quake Capital, a venture capital group and startup accelerator, the Games for Change Accelerator will offer funding from $150,000 to $500,000 to five teams selected for the first cohort, with the goal of tackling real-world challenges.

Projects will be considered that “can deliver a sustainable business model, as well as drive measurable impact,” said Susanna Pollack, Games for Change president, in an interview. Although no specific area or theme has been designated, one of the “most viable” sectors worth considering as a candidate is educational games, she said.

“School districts are bringing more devices into the classroom. There is a need for good content to live on those laptops that are going into schools,” said Pollack. “I feel like we’re following a trend, and it is only a matter of time before there is a pipeline of great educational games that will serve a content need.”

This accelerator initiative has been considered “for a long time,” Pollack explained, but Games for Change—a nonprofit founded in 2004—took this step now because games are increasingly recognized as more than just entertainment. The gaming approach is being applied in many fields, including healthcare and education.

For instance, a Project Tomorrow report found that the number of teachers using games in the classroom jumped from 23 percent in 2010 to 48 percent in 2015.

One of the projects Games for Change supports is iCivics, which launched at the Games for Change Festival in 2010. Since it was founded by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, iCivics has become the largest provider of civics curriculum in the nation, reaching nearly 200,000 teachers and more than 5 million students in all 50 states.

Games for Change isn’t alone in its efforts to support the use of digital options in the classroom. In January, the U.S. Department of Education hosted its annual ED Games Expo with over 100 game titles showcased. Approximately one-fifth of these games featured augmented or virtual reality.

Applications for the new accelerator are due by May 31. Teams that are chosen will develop their games from September 2019 through January 2020. Two cohorts will run each year, and besides the funding, teams will receive guidance and support to advance their projects.

For now, the Games for Change Accelerator is New York City-based. Pollack said that her hope is to fund and support games to drive measurable impact across the nation, expanding the program into different cities and possibly internationally.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this blog post misspelled Susanna Pollack’s name.

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