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Game Lab Helps Lead Persuasive Play Conversation at SXSW

From sharing their own stories to experiencing new projects that have the industry abuzz, JoLT Fellows from the American University (AU) Game Lab took full advantage of their recent trip to Austin, Texas, for the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference & Festivals.

Members of the JoLT team—including a game designer, a clinical psychologist, a comic artist/entrepreneur and a TV editor—held a panel event called “Engineered Collisions Between Games and News,” at SXSW 2017. They presented firsthand knowledge of how media organizations can leverage the power of games and play to transform the way audiences experience and engage with journalism.

Students engaging with Lindsay Grace at SXSW.

The JoLT project, part of the AU School of Communication in Washington, DC, was launched in 2015 to define and cultivate disruptive leadership in media and journalism. AU Game Lab Director Lindsay Grace, who was part of the SXSW panel, said the project’s work created quite a stir at the conference.

“We provided some clear, evidence-based insight into how games can engage audiences, inspire empathy and offer an experience that provides inroads to news topics,” Grace said. “Our Polygon game demonstrates engagement, and our WAMU game demonstrates this empathy and new ways to get audiences to understand content.

“Also, our new rerelease of Factitious, the game that challenges the user to spot fake news, definitely piqued audience interest at SXSW. Two Dutch newspapers wrote articles about the work.”

Besides presenting at SXSW, the JoLT team also took time to learn more about a variety of exciting games, trends and information from the gaming and persuasive play industry.

Student interacts with a digital "I want you for the U.S. Army" sign.

“Virtual reality and augmented reality continue to get lots of attention. This includes low-cost solutions like Google Cardboard,” Grace said. “I’ve also seen a growing understanding that games aren’t just for entertainment, as people are considering them for engagement strategies—the same concept we’ve been encouraging through JoLT and the AU Game Lab.”

The wide swath of emerging ideas within the realm of interactivity has Grace and the Game Lab looking with optimism towards a future of gaming ubiquity.

“Ultimately, within the next decade, I suspect game strategies will be regularly employed in engagement,” he said. “Our hope is that many organizations will view game designers as common and necessary as a marketing or IT team. In 10 years, it may be surprising if you are involved in engagement yet don’t have a game designer on your team.”

Learn more about the AU Game Lab here and more about the JoLT program here.

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