Cultural Heritage Game Jam Inspires Global Creativity and Innovation

December 6, 2021

The competition phase of the Cultural Heritage Game Jam came to an exciting end on November 21, 2021, as the 847 jammers who competed from 72 countries raced to submit their games before the deadline.  The four countries with the greatest number of participants were Algeria, the United States, Morocco, and Peru.  In total, 115 games were developed around the theme of protecting and preserving cultural heritage.  Sub-themes challenged jammers to create games that:

  • Celebrate diverse cultural art, artifacts, traditions, and places;
  • Help disrupt cultural heritage looting, theft, trafficking, and destruction;
  • Reinforce the importance of protecting and preserving cultural heritage; and
  • Educate about the effects of climate change on cultural heritage

The U.S. Government’s Cultural Antiquities Task Force (CATF) and the Department of State’s Cultural Heritage Center worked with and Global Game Jam, Inc. (GGJ) to launch the global videogame development competition on November 5.  The kickoff event featured an announcement of the theme and a keynote address by well-known game developer Osama Dorias (“Angry Birds:  World Tour” “Mickey Mouse:  Date Dash” and “The Incredibles:  Jack-Jack's Escape”).  Dorias urged the jammers to resist complacency and not lose sight of storytelling through games.  “We have a responsibility, collectively and individually, to bring forward that which is unique to us and our experiences.  As the business of game making continues to grow, seemingly without an end in sight, we are in need to have games that reflect who we are and where we’re from.”  A link to that video can be found here:  https://www.twitch.tv/videos/1196898226

State Department personnel and interagency partners interacted with the jammers throughout the game development process through a series of Ask Me Anything (AMA) chats hosted by GGJ.   Each AMA gave jammers a chance to hear about cultural heritage protection from a different viewpoint.  

Dr. Catherine Foster of the CATF discussed the power of storytelling in person-to-person diplomacy.  

“There are a lot of stories out there about communities and cultures that people are not aware of or not familiar with.  That’s where videogames are really special in that they can show those stories.  People can play those stories and learn about other cultures in a way that is approachable and immersive.”

A complete recording of Dr. Foster’s AMA can be found here:  https://www.twitch.tv/videos/1195879819

Ashley Fry, an Indigenous Affairs Officer from the Department of State, participated in a panel discussion with women from the game industry highlighting the threat from climate change to Indigenous cultural heritage.  They stressed the importance of “working directly with a population or community that you are representing and working with them from the beginning” in videogame development.  A complete recording of the AMA panel, including Ms. Fry’s remarks, can be found here:  https://www.twitch.tv/videos/1197817822

Special Agent Jake Archer of the FBI Art Crime Team participated in a final AMA where he shared that videogames can help the FBI protect cultural heritage by raising awareness.

“I care a lot about how efficiently we can do our job here for the federal government, and any games that bring awareness about cultural heritage matters and are able to do so in a thoughtful way, is beneficial to us all.  I am not sure what they would look like in a video game format, but I can’t wait to see what some of the results might be.”  

A recording of Special Agent Archer’s AMA can be found here:  https://www.twitch.tv/videos/1203531091

All 115 submissions to the Cultural Heritage Game Jam are playable for free here: https://itch.io/jam/cultural-heritage-game-jam/entries  

A panel of judges from the State Department, GGJ, and the game industry are evaluating the entries.  The winning games will be announced on December 16, 2021 at the USA Pavilion at Expo2020 in Dubai:  https://usapavilion.org/

 

About the Cultural Antiquities Task Force  

Created by the State Department in 2004 at the direction of Congress, the CATF comprises federal agencies that share a common mission to disrupt cultural property trafficking in the United States and abroad. Since its creation, the CATF has supported more than 100 domestic and international cultural property training programs. CATF is a law enforcement-focus working group of the Cultural Heritage Coordinating Committee.  Both are managed by the State Department’s Cultural Heritage Center.