Technology Empowering U.S. Diplomacy and Development

Tech@State will next explore games, the serious games that teach, train and solve problems in ways the real world may not always allow. By bringing parties together in a virtual setting with defined rules and constraints, a serious game can help players understand a complex problem, empathize with an adversary, accomplish an otherwise unwieldy task, or develop a new model for business or governance. Leveraging technology to compartmentalize the chaos of the real world, the gaming experience can helps us grasp puzzles that have remained unsolved for centuries.

We're moving ahead with the Serious Games topic for our next Tech@State, which will be May 27-28 at the Newseum in Washington, DC. Now, who and what from this vast and fascinating topic to include?

We've had some great opening suggestions already, which we've pasted in below. What can you add to these? Great speakers? Interesting topics? Applications of gaming within the event? How best can we explore the concept of games in the context of diplomacy, development and foreign affairs?


previous suggestions:

 *Comment by Robert Bole on March 4, 2011 at 9:43am
I would suggest that you enlist Kati London of (now) Zynga-NY, formerly called Area/Code games.  She does amazing work in both digital/offline/hybrid games.  For example, through a Knight Foundation award she and her team created Macon Money that is helping build community engagement in a very diverse, very separated community.

She was also hired by the UK to create an online game to teach - of all things - children to look both ways to cross the road.  (Apparently, there is a rising incidence of children being hit as they run out into the road...potential of US TV/film that is conditioning children to "look the wrong way", you be the judge.)  The result has been a very popular MMO the Code of Everand, which even after funding was cut, has been supported by the gaming community. 

I saw Kati speak at SXSW last year, got to meet her at another gathering and have gotten to know her since then...wonderful presenter, passionate, smart as anything.  A good addition for this session.

 *Comment by James BonTempo on March 4, 2011 at 12:35pm
For serious games I would recommend Jennifer McNamara @ BreakAway, Ltd. They have a wide range of projects/products in this emerging area (see And they're nearby - Hunt Valley, MD.

 *Comment by Brian Zhang on March 4, 2011 at 2:43pm
Serious/Social Games:
Jane McGonigal!
Her recent games, Urgent Evoke and World Without Oil (, have shown the power of removing the risk barrier of and increasing the individual feedback from tackling global issues.

 *Comment by Joe B Johnson on March 4, 2011 at 2:52pm
You could have experts yammer about gaming, or you could turn the next Tech@State into an online game,built around a problem in foreign affairs.  Something with an outcome from all those clever minds at work.

 *Comment by Luke Hohmann on March 6, 2011 at 12:02am
I'm very excited that the topic of Serious/Social Games has risen to the top of your list.
The Innovation Games® Company  has been designing and producing games for corporations like Qualcomm, Cisco, Yahoo!, Armstrong Flooring, and Reed Elsevier since 2003. Our success in the private sector has convinced us that our games can make a significant positive impact in the public sector. And they have.
 Like many city, state and national governments, the City of San Jose, CA, is facing a significant 2011-2012 budget deficit. On Jan 29th, 2011, history was made when a diverse and highly motivated group of community leaders and engaged citizens from the City of San Jose played a specially designed Innovation Game® to provide feedback regarding their budget priorities to the Mayor’s office.
 Our approach has the potential to become a template for igniting a whole new kind of civic engagement through serious games. Because our games are based on proven in-person *and* online game models, they can be used to improve civic engagement in a surprisingly large number of ways.
 I would be honored to share our games and how they can be used to dramatically improve statecraft and improve the education, health and welfare of the world's population.

 *Comment by Robert J. Popchak on March 6, 2011 at 12:32am
Something along the lines of social and civil reconstruction after a popular revolution - very appropos to the issues raging throughout N Africa and the Middle East.

 *Comment by Elena Yatzeck on March 6, 2011 at 1:19am
I would second Luke Hohmann's suggestion that you consider Innovation Games® for your next Tech@State event.  These games are extraordinarily helpful for building understanding and consensus.  It's not just that they are effective AND fun--they are more effective because they ARE fun.
 *Comment by Nicholas Carl Martin on March 9, 2011 at 12:42pm
At TechChange, we recently taught a course at American University on the Applications of Technology for Peacebuilding. We did a unit on video games for change where participants played seven different games and discussed themes like how to responsibly inhabit another's experience, balance game-play with social issues, and incorporate local context into game design. We've done this unit a few times, and I'd be happy to share my experiences with the Tech@State community.

 *Comment by Josh Knowles on March 15, 2011 at 5:45pm
I am an independent game developer and designer with an interest in using technology for improving government and politics. I'm actually good friends with Kati London (mentioned above) -- we attended graduate school together and worked together on a couple of projects at Area/Code (now Zynga NY). I would love to participate in a discussion about using game mechanics to improve how government works.
 I am also in the process of launching an open citizenship project called GovDecoder: A website aimed at improving the quality of conversation online about and with our government -- using, amongst other things, some well-placed social game mechanics. I would love to get more input from the community, so if anyone's interested -- please, feel free to drop me a note.

 *Comment by Andrea Michels 1 day ago
Regarding Joe's comment, a gaming occurrence using a current event as the basis is a great idea. The format of the session could include an introduction to gaming framework and then break up into teams that tackle issues.

 *Comment by Tiffany Taylor Attaway 1 hour ago
In regards to gaming, the Foreign Service Institute held a one-day roundtable on gaming and learning in December. It was held at our campus in Arlington, and we had 6 speakers, 4 of whom are from the video game industry. Videos of each speaker and the slides for many of the presentations are located here: at the website of CASL/UMD who co-sponsored the event with us. I was on the team that helped plan the event, so if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Views: 359

Comment by Josh Knowles on March 22, 2011 at 4:50pm
Will this be on-site at the Newseum? I enjoy visiting DC and I'd love to come down.

More on-topic: I'm not sure if this is exactly on-topic with regard to diplomacy, but I'm also working with a research group at Columbia, developing a pair of iPhone games to help people quit smoking. I'd be more than happy to point them in your direction, if you'd like.

But, yeah: I would love to participate in something like this. And by May I'm hoping that GovDecoder will be open and worth talking about. While it's not a game per se, it's definitely drawing elements from that discipline.

And I should note, as well, that my personal take is that there are things that are games and things that are not games, but increasingly we're seeing a kind of grey middle-ground, services that have been heavily influenced by the world of games but couldn't really be called a "game." I love games, but I think this area is fascinating, as well, and could invite a slightly different flavor of discussion.
Comment by Shaun Dakin on March 23, 2011 at 12:28pm

This is a great idea.  


The only thing I would add to the discussion is thinking about Data Privacy in general and Identity and Privacy in games.  How do you ensure participant's privacy?  Is that appropriate? How do people identify themselves in a game?  How are identities verified?




Shaun Dakin

Fellow, The Future of Privacy Forum

Founder, Privacy Camp

Comment by Laurie Moy on March 23, 2011 at 3:08pm
I think its also important to discuss how to "sell" this to the boss. I imagine attendees will have already drank the koolaid, but how do you convince your boss, funders, others that gaming is a viable approach?
Comment by Jeffrey Bonds Lopez on March 23, 2011 at 3:34pm
For speakers, I would support Luke Hohmann and put forward Jen Pahlka and Gabe Zichermann. Luke is CEO of Innovation Games and is doing some really interesting projects with the potential to revolutionize civic engagement. Jen Pahlka is founder of Code for America, which is making progress in bringing the best practices of innovation and development from the tech world and applying them to the public sphere. Gabe Zichermann (full disclosure: he is my boss) is great public speaker from the gamification space, and to answer Laurie Moy, has a track record of convincing bosses that gaming is a viable approach.
Comment by Charles Tsai on March 23, 2011 at 6:11pm

I'm the founder of Social Creatives, an organization that teaches social innovation and spreads best practices of the social sector through toolkits, workshops and other knowledge products.


One of SOCIAL Creatives' new initiatives is Fun for a Change, a new social innovation competition that engages youth in using "fun" and game dynamics to create change.  We offer all the support materials for schools (middle schools to universities) to run their Fun for a Change competition and then feed winners into a global competition. This year, we are piloting the competition at Princeton and two universities in Canada and India as well as at least 2 middle schools.


We use Fun for a Change to introduce young people to social change and teach them six key best practices that are essential to social innovation.


For more information about the competition, feel free to contact me. 


Charles Tsai

Founder, SOCIAL Creatives


Comment by Jude Ower on March 23, 2011 at 6:54pm

Hello I am Jude from the Play Mob. We create games that make people smarter and have moved also into the social games for social good space. For the topics outlined, we can take 2 perspectives, games for training (internal) and games for awareness (external). Games for training would be for internal training of the people in positions and hands on in the 3 sectors, and games for awareness is to educate in an informal learning manner and socially, to the masses and have them participate, learn, give feedback and take action via the game. 


We are tapping into the power of social networks and mobile for the latter. 


Interested to see what more we can come up with and shape this event.





Comment by Marcia Lynn Eichenauer on March 24, 2011 at 11:26am

TECH@sTATE, CONGRATULATIONS ON THIS VERY STRATEGIC AND FUN INITIATIVE.  CHRISTech MOBILE TV NETWORK, L3C is a new company with a similar strategic plan and is helping to address violence against women and children, systemically and personally.  We have a team of Investment Bankers and are interested in commericalizing games and we will have an Incubator in the Boston or NY area, soon for this purpose.  We are hoping to hear from you how we may help you to make this very important, new and exciting effort a success.  We are open to accepting proposals for games development from companies as well as individuals to commercialize games addressing violence, systemically, including sex trafficking, as well as oppression of women, in the Middle East, for example.  And, we are already in markets including Africa, Israel, Japan, US, India among others.  Join us and our mobile Network now in stealth mode, soon to launch. 

Contact us here or at

Marcia Lynn Eichenauer, Ceo, Founder


Comment by Reem N Bsaiso on March 25, 2011 at 10:09am
Great initiative. I support it, having joined an online social gaming Evoke game by the World Bank / Robert Hawkins that 20,000 players from 150 countries, covering all 8 MDG in all sectors. only 150 finished the game of the future, 10 won, I was won of them who joined a DC WB Summit and because of them, so many innovative ideas saw the light, got funding and rolled on in respective countries.
Comment by Laura Williams on March 30, 2011 at 10:01am

You may want to check out Jesse Schell's (on the faculty of the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon, and former Disney Imagineer) presentation at DICE 2010  When Games Invade Real Life ... did you know that Farmville is bigger than Twitter? Listen to this and other mind boggling equations that talk to how new media platforms meet gaming phenomenon meets the future

Comment by techATstate on April 6, 2011 at 12:26pm

"Games are absolutely the best way to learn,” she said. “They are superior to any other instructional model.”

from ch. 16 of Imagination: Creating the Future of Education and Work, by Rita J. King and Joshua Fouts


Agree? Why or why not?



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