Games, local nonprofits and environmentalism come together in Game Genius’ newest event. The play-based nonprofit designs creative programming for other small nonprofits to help with team building. This can be in the form of fun treasure hunts or trivia games, or can be a game with a learning outcome like communication or teamwork. Now, Game Genius is bringing the fun to the wider D.C. community with Play Week, a series of events from Saturday, April 17 to Sunday, April 25 centered around the power of play.
Play Week events cater to three different audiences. The first part of the week is geared toward individuals interested in game development, with the unveiling of a game design contest and a workshop about how to turn ideas into games. The middle of the week has a target audience of nonprofits, and features a workshop about engaging staff using games and a social media challenge to highlight local environmental nonprofits. Events like a trivia session and escape room at the end of the week are targeted toward people who want to incorporate a little play into their own lives. Throughout the week, Game Genius is also working with local nonprofits one-on-one to explore play within their own organizations.
“We’re trying to align different events to different audiences on purpose,” says Peter Williamson, executive director of Game Genius. “Whether it’s nonprofit leaders, individuals who just like to play and meet new people, [or] entrepreneurs [and] changemakers working on a venture themselves, we have something for everybody.”
Behind Game Week is an overarching impact theme. This year, the theme is climate and environment. Throughout the week, different environmental stakeholders in the D.C. area, including climate experts and environmental nonprofits, will be a part of Play Week events. The theme was chosen after realizing the importance of the outdoors during the pandemic.
“We found just being outside, especially during the pandemic, was a place of really good mental health for people,” Williamson says. “I think as a new administration came in, there seemed to be a lot of good tailwinds around climate discussion. It’s long overdue for it to be on the top of people’s minds.”
Past Game Genius events have had themes like women’s history and mental health. Williamson believes games can have an important role in impacting social change by serving as a call to action.
“They tell stories that bring awareness to causes,” he says. “If a game is built really well, it is a memorable shared experience between people that can keep them accountable for taking an action step.”
In line with the week’s environmental theme, the design competition that runs throughout the week includes an element of upcycling. Participants have to incorporate common household objects that might otherwise be seen as trash into their idea to create a game that will tell a story. The full prompt will be released on Sunday, April 18, and participants have a full week to submit their designs. The winning designers will have the chance to work with Game Genius to further their ideas.
This is the first year of Play Week, but Williamson hopes it’s a tradition that will continue into the future.
“Our goal this year, being the first installment of this, is really to set the stage for an annual event [where] we can celebrate the power of play.”
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