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@G4C Winning Against Pandemics: Games as Essential Tools for Planning and Response

Image credit: Games For Change Festival – A Dream Team of Speakers Who Champion Healthcare and Citizen Science Games

The 17th Games For Change Festival kicked-off earlier today. For the first time, organizers made the decision to go virtual with free registration to all participants, drawing a global audience to explore, share and learn how we can leverage the power of games and immersive media for positive social impact!

A most inspiring session at #G4C2020 today was Winning Against Pandemics: Games as Essential Tools for Planning and Response.

The expert panel discussed the development of games for pandemics, healthcare in general and citizen science over the last 15 years, including current high-impact efforts and future directions.

Russell Schilling, Ph.D., panel moderator, has been involved in developing Serious Games for over 30 years.  A retired Navy Captain, he was a program officer at both Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Defense Advanced Research Programs Agency (DARPA) where he developed games and VR applications in STEM, medical training, pandemic planning, and mental health.

Here is the lineup of luminaries:

Noah Falstein, The Inspiracy President, has been a video game developer since 1980, and was one of the first 10 employees at LucasArts Entertainment, The 3DO Company, and DreamWorks Interactive. He recently served for four years as Google’s Chief Game Designer, working closely with their AR and VR projects, before leaving the company to pursue health games opportunities. He is an advisor/contributor to Akili Interactive (ADHD), TrainPain (Pain Remediation), StoryUp (Empathy), and AdventureLab (hosted VR) among others.

Noah’s current project is a Stanford-based Citizen Science game to annotate CT scans of Covid-19 patients.

Seth Cooper is an Assistant Professor in the Khoury College of Computer Sciences at Northeastern University.  He was previously Creative Director of the Center for Game Science at the University of Washington, where he earned his PhD in Computer Science and Engineering.  Seth's work focuses on using video games to crowdsource the solutions to difficult real-world problems.  He is co-creator of Foldit, a video game that has allowed hundreds of thousands of players to be involved in scientific research in biochemistry. 

Foldit has been encouraging people to start playing the game as they believe that this could speed up the process of finding a cure for the novel coronavirus.

Dr. Rhiju Das is an Associate Professor of Biochemistry at Stanford University School of Medicine. His lab focuses on computer modeling and design of RNA molecules, which code for elaborate biological machines like viruses, ribosomes, self-replicases, and agile RNA medicines. Dr. Das leads Eterna, an open science platform that crowdsources intractable RNA design problems to players of an online video game and provides scoring feedback based on actual wet-lab experiments. 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Das and Eterna have launched the OpenVaccine challenge to develop refrigerator-stable mRNA vaccines needed for world-wide immunization. Please find more at Stanford biochemist works with gamers to develop COVID-19 vaccine

Francesco Cavallari has 20 years of experience in the games industry having held both technical and leadership positions at Ubisoft. In 2015 he founded Video Games Without Borders, a nonprofit organization and a global community of people who believe in digital games to change the world for the better.
Francesco recently led the team of volunteers behind Flatten Island, designed to raise funds for nonprofits fighting against COVID-19.