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The Cross Cultural Impact Jam: A Unique Week to Amplify Voices

From March 20 - March 28, about 70 student developers from Canada, France, Senegal, and the United States participated in the Cross Cultural Impact Jam and explored how they can integrate inclusivity and impact into their work. This week-long virtual event was presented by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the U.S., Unity and Games for Change, with the support of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in Canada, and the Consulate General of France in Quebec

Unlike most jams which generally ‘crunch’ development throughout a weekend, this jam took place over an entire week. The extended schedule allowed for collaboration between teammates across global time zones and allowed students to balance their school and personal schedules. The SNJV (French syndicat for video game) and the French Game Schools Network provided their support to identify French students willing to participate.

Video games constitute the world’s largest creative industry, and a powerful subculture has developed around them. As the industry continues to gain influence among younger audiences, we must make sure that it becomes more inclusive. The Cross-Cultural Impact Jam is our first step in service of instilling that inclusivity through fostering dialogue around positive games on an international scale.” 

Gaëtan Bruel, Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy in the US

Students participated in various activities and workshops throughout the week, including the G4C design methodology for impact games. Meanwhile, the IGDA Foundation provided practical tips for students who are entering emerging careers in the games and tech industries, focusing on themes of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

We wanted to be sure that the structure of the Impact Jam encouraged a counter-crunch mentality as much as possible, particularly since these students will soon be entering the workforce. Time is a precious commodity these days, so giving students space and flexibility to self-organize their remote productions was key.

Susanna Pollack, President of G4C

After a weekend of activities, the theme was revealed, and students began to develop experiences around an inclusive theme: ‘Amplifying Voices.’ This theme was selected to encourage students to consider how we can uplift and advocate for meaningful social issues and marginalized voices in our communities. During the week, we also had gracious support from faculty mentors, who provided feedback to students throughout the program. All of the projects were created using Unity.

At Unity, we believe the world is a better place with more creators in it, and that creativity can and should come from anyone, anywhere,” said Jessica Lindl, VP, Social Impact, Unity. “Change happens when all voices are heard. We're proud to have helped provide an inclusive, collaborative space for international students to create games and share their stories using Unity."

Jessica Lindl, VP, Social Impact, Unity

At the end of the Impact Jam, teams presented their work in front of a panel of guest judges, including Alain Wong from Unity, Jehanne Rousseau from Spiders, Kishonna Gray from University of Illinois - Chicago, and Krystel Theuvenin from the School of Interactive Arts. Together, we celebrated a week of cross-collaboration, and four student teams were honored with superlative awards. Three additional teams were also given honorable mentions.

Most Creative Award: Automated Days - Play as a warehouse worker in an industry that only seeks to become more efficient, despite human well-being.

Honorable Mention: Healing Heart

Making an Impact Award: Mask - A game about masking, as well as the risks and rewards of revealing yourself to others.

Honorable Mention: On the Flip Side

Best Visual Design: Piggy - In this horror-themed platformer game, you are a pig trying to escape a slaughterhouse.

Honorable Mention: A Night Without A Home

Grand Prize Winner: Paving the Way - See through the eyes of a visually impaired person by helping them navigate through town using tactile paving.

All games created during the jam are playable on the Cross-Cultural Impact Jam Showcase page on Unity Play.

One of the biggest highlights from the program was exploring the importance of diversity in the industry. “Each person has their own unique view in the world— whether it’s their culture or upbringing. It’s important to get those voices out there because right now, it isn’t representative of society. We want to change that” said jam participant, Ashley Eliassaint, a student at NYU. We are proud to have fostered these friendships and connections globally, and we hope to support similar events in the future!

Thanks to participating schools: Arizona State UniversityCarnegie Mellon UniversityCentre for Digital MediaCnam-EnjminEcole Supérieure Polytechnique de DakarEcole Supérieure Multinationale Des TélécommunicationsGroupe IAM (African Management Institute)IIM, DIGITAL SCHOOLISART DIGITALLangara Centre for Entertainment ArtsNew York UniversityPOLE 3DPolytechnic School ThièsRochester Institute of TechnologySheridan CollegeSpelman CollegeUniversité du Québec en Abitibi-TémiscamingueUniversité virtuelle du Sénégal

This jam was part of Games for Good and Transitioning to Virtual Exchange, initiated by the French Embassy in the U.S., the FACE Foundation, and its partners, and part of Unity Social Impact.