Today the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, announced it is organizing game jams in at least six major U.S. cities on the weekend of May 21 to harness the creative and technical capabilities of video game developers in support of the Apps for Healthy Kids competition. Announced by First Lady Michelle Obama on March 10, 2010, as part of her Let's Move! campaign to end childhood obesity, the Apps for Healthy Kids competition challenges software developers, game designers, students and other innovators to develop innovative, fun, and engaging tools and games that help kids and their parents to eat better and be more physically active. Prizes totaling $60,000 will be awarded to the entries that are voted the best by a panel of expert judges.
The game jams will draw game developers, graphic artists and local youth together to brainstorm ideas and produce video game prototypes from scratch in just 48 hours. The prototypes will be displayed at the sixth annual Games for Health Conference, to be held May 26–27, 2010, in Boston, further refined, and submitted to the Apps for Healthy Kids competition before the June 30 deadline.
"This unique partnership provides a fun way for our members to focus their creative energies toward the goal of the Apps for Healthy Kids competition. Game jams, like our very successful yearly Global Game Jam, are a great way to do that. We're looking forward to generating some amazing entries for the contest," said IGDA Board Chair Gordon Bellamy.
The game jams, hosted by the IGDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are a joint initiative of the Games for Health project and Health Games Research. The Games for Health project works to build the overall field of games for health through a variety of activities including the annual Games for Health Conference, which brings together game developers, technology experts, health professionals, researchers, policy-makers and investors. The Health Games Research national program, headquartered at the University of California, Santa Barbara, provides resources and scientific leadership to the field and supports 21 research projects across the United States, all focusing on the research and design of effective health games aimed at improving players' physical activity and or their prevention and self-care behaviors. Both Games for Health and Health Games Research are supported the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Pioneer Portfolio, which seeks out innovative ideas that may lead to significant breakthroughs in the future of health and health care.
"This partnership brings together the federal government, the largest association of game developers, and two leading organizations exploring how video games and game technologies can improve health and health care," said Ben Sawyer, co-founder of the Games for Health project and co-organizer of the game jam weekend. "Together we want to respond to the call to the creative development community issued by the USDA and the White House to play a part in battling the epidemic of childhood obesity. The best games for health come from a dynamic mix of expertise in game development, health and health care, research, and the subject at hand. The game jams will bring these forces together at large-scale."
"We applaud the USDA and the White House for seeing the potential power of digital games to improve health," said Debra Lieberman, Ph.D., director of Health Games Research and communication researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "Well designed games can do more than entertain. Previous research and the groundbreaking studies we're supporting are demonstrating how health games can help build the health-related knowledge, attitudes, skills and social relationships that are known to improve players' health behaviors and outcomes."
Game Jam Challenge Details
- All jams take place from May 21–23, 2010.
- Current plans call for the Game Jam challenge sites to include Boston, New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, Orlando and Atlanta. As additional IGDA chapters find locations and set up participation structures, details will be posted online at www.healthgameschallenge.org and www.appsforhealthykids.com.
- Games must incorporate USDA nutrition data, aim to motivate kids to eat better and be more physically active, and otherwise comply with the full contest rules, available at www.appsforhealthykids.com.
- All sites are encouraged to involve local youth, health experts and nutrition experts in their plans when possible.
- Sites are asked to promote and provide healthy foods and snacks for all participants. Screenshots and, where possible, game demos as developed will be made available for public access though the www.healthgameschallenge.org Web site.
- While the Apps for Healthy Kids competition is only open to U.S. residents, the IGDA still welcomes international participants for the fun of it.
About the IGDA
The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) is the largest nonprofit membership organization serving individuals that create video games. The IGDA is committed to advancing the careers and enhancing the lives of game developers by connecting members with their peers, promoting professional development and advocating on issues that affect the developer community.
About Games for Health
Games for Health, the leading professional community in the field of health games, brings together the best minds in game development and health care to advance game technologies that improve health and the delivery of health care. Games for Health is funded primarily by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Pioneer Portfolio.
About Health Games Research
The Health Games Research national program conducts and supports research to advance the quality and effectiveness of digital games designed to improve players' health. The program is located at the University of California, Santa Barbara, one of the nation's top-ranked public universities.
About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Pioneer Portfolio
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. The Foundation's Pioneer Portfolio supports innovative ideas and projects that may lead to important breakthroughs in health and health care. Projects in the Pioneer Portfolio are future-oriented and look beyond conventional thinking to explore solutions at the cutting edge of health and health care. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.