The winners of this year’s Games for Change Awards have now been revealed, and they are a far cry from the typical AAA titles which normally steal the top spots in game awards. The Game of the Year at this ceremony was Walden, A Game, a title about tranquil survival with a soft, reflective narrative. It took home the award for Most Significant Impact title, too.
Unlike other game awards, like the BAFTAs, which laud games for their aesthetics, mechanics, and features within their defined genre, Games for Change is more interested in social impact. It looks at educational games, innovative games, and ones that provide great gameplay while improving the lives of their players, and on July 31, it announced the best of the best.
Walden, A Game, a title that puts players in the boots of 19th-century American philosopher Henry Thoreau, received the most praise for its use of quiet contemplation in a game with more typical survival elements. Featuring a mix of familiar gameplay functions with a relaxed pace, it was considered the top game at the show, as well as the most impactful in its award nods.
It wasn’t the best at everything, though. When it came to Best Gameplay, Tracking Ida took home the award. An alternate reality game that blends physical props and clues with problem-solving and interviews with real people, it tells the story of 19th-century journalist Ida Wells.
Other winners included Everything for Most Innovative, with its ability for players to literally play as everything and anything they want in the game. Dragonbox Big Numbers was given the award for Best Learning Game, for the way it helps teach children about harder mathematical concepts. And At Play in the Cosmos won the People’s Choice award for its exploration of space and time through mission challenges.
Minecraft: Education Edition was a nominated finalist for the Best Gameplay and Most Significant Impact awards and was the only game to secure nominations in several categories, but it didn’t take home a single award by the end of the show.
It wasn’t the only one to miss out on a top spot though. Sea Hero Quest hoped to win with its unique aide of dementia research through gaming. Epistory looked to impress through its encouragement of typing ability through a narrative story, while Liyla and the Shadows of War teaches players about Gaza during the conflict of 2014.
Many different games and platforms were on show during the event, including a specific look at virtual reality games. Taking place as part of the festival, VR for Change showed how VR games are advancing real world causes and helping to raise awareness through up close and personal virtual reality experiences.
Updated: Added and described the award winners.