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Game Jam 2012: VOA Gets its Game Face on

Participants of VOA's Game Jam session discussed how games are used as tools to facilitate intercultural dialogue.
Participants of VOA's Game Jam session discussed how games are used as tools to facilitate intercultural dialogue.
Could gaming and game apps be the next frontier for international broadcasters like VOA? The answer might be right around the corner.

VOA recently teamed up with the Learning Games Network (LGN) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to organize the first-ever VOA Game Jam at the VOA headquarters on October 11th.

A game jam is a free-wheeling group session where ideas for new electronic games are generated and discussed. VOA used the forum to brainstorm new delivery mechanisms for VOA’s news and information programs. Unlike regular game jams, which usually take several days and run from conception to prototype, the one at VOA was compressed into a day and focused on generating ideas for games appropriate for VOA’s audiences.

“This session with MIT opened up new possibilities for VOA to reach young people around the world,” said VOA Director of Digital Strategy Matthew Baise. “The best ideas that come out of this will go into future development.”

Reporters, web editors and developers were invited to bring their best ideas to the session, which was led by Scot Osterweil, Creative Director of MIT’s Education Arcade, and Alex Chisolm, co-founder of Learning Games Network. Chisolm noted that there’s a natural intersection between journalism and games, and that’s “telling a story.”

“Play is something incredibly important to us … It has always been integral to human culture,” said Osterweil, who has designed games for computers, handheld devices and multiplayer online environments. Osterweil emphasized the importance of using games as a fun way to learn and share ideas. ”I think it’s an obvious problem of the world that people don’t understand each other’s point of view. Intercultural dialogue diminishes this.”

The six-hour session was a part of VOA’s media partnership with the Create UNAOC 2012 challenge, a global competition aimed at developing mobile apps and games to facilitate intercultural dialogue. The partnership will allow VOA to elevate and expand its social media innovation and reach untapped new audiences.

To learn more about the UNAOC Challenge, visit the Create UNAOC site Submissions will be accepted until November 30th. Five finalists will be awarded $5,000 (USD) and invited to participate in the UNAOC February 2013 conference in Vienna, Austria.