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Think back to when you first contemplated getting into the video games industry. The ‘aha’ moment probably occurred while playing a particular game.
That certainly was the case for Suzanne Seggerman, co-founder and president of Games for Change, the social change/social issues branch of the Washington, D.C.-based Serious Games Initiative. While working as a documentary film producer for PBS, a co-worker slipped Seggerman a diskette containing Jim Gasperini’s government simulation game, Hidden Agenda. “I had played a little Asteroids while in college,” the New Yorker remembers, “but I definitely wasn’t a gamer.”
That all changed after she spent a weekend with her computerized present. “It was a transformative experience for me,” Seggerman says. “I sat up in the attic while a party was going on below—and I’m never one to miss a good party—and must have played the game for 10 hours straight.”
“I learned more about politics by playing Hidden Agenda than by reading 10 newspapers,” she adds.
Seggerman continued making films for a few years, but that ‘aha’ moment was never far from her thoughts. “I made a mental note that it had been something important and powerful and that I’d get back to that place at some point in my career,” she says.
That moment came in 2004 when Seggerman, who in the meantime had earned a master’s degree from New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program, co-founded Games for Change with Global Kids’ Barry Joseph and NetAid’s Ben Stokes (now with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation).
“We act as the primary community of practice for the people making activist games, documentary games, persuasive games, political games, serious games, social-issue games—whatever you want to call them,” Seggerman explains.
Games for Change fills a void Seggerman discovered when she attended her first Game Developers Conference in 1996. “I went there to find people working on what I called ‘meaningful’ games,” she says. “Much to my surprise, I couldn’t find anyone.”
“That made me realize what an aberration Hidden Agenda was at that point,” Seggerman adds. “I’m amazed it made it into my hands when it did, because I don’t think any other game would have impacted me the way that one did.”