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Josh Shen is without doubt one of the solely individuals within the federal government whose job has lots to do with video video games. He’s a overseas service officer within the State Division, and he surfaced this week as a speaker on the Games for Change on-line occasion about video games that make a social affect in our lives.

You may consider him as a good friend of the gaming business in Washington, D.C.

Beforehand, our man in D.C. was Mark Loura, who labored within the White Home in the course of the Obama administration in 2013 and 2014. This week, Shen gave a speak about how governments can assist develop the sport business, and he wasn’t speaking about tax breaks or recruiting abroad recreation corporations to create jobs within the U.S.

He’s the strategic designer for interactive media and video video games within the Bureau of Academic & Cultural Affairs (ECA), a department of the U.S. Division of State that promotes schooling, understanding, and public diplomacy packages to the two.7 billion players worldwide. That’s an enormous job for only one man.

“It’s a course of, and every little thing is a collection of alternatives the place you fill within the gaps,” Shen mentioned in an interview with GamesBeat. “My job began in 2019. It was a brand-new project, however they had been in a position to establish the necessity. How typically as a bureaucrat are you able to be the proprietor and solely guru on material like this? Lots of people acknowledged we must be on this house, however they didn’t have any concept the place to get began.”

Video games for Change

Above: Mark Barlet, middle, has obtained the Vanguard Award from Video games for Change.

Picture Credit score: AbleGamers

Video games for Change is the epicenter for speaking about video games which have a social affect, and it came about this week, with tons of nice audio system who’re on the intersection of presidency, business, and nonprofits in gaming.

Susanna Pollack, the organizer of Games for Change, mentioned in an interview she admires the work the State Division has begun to do to foster cross-cultural understanding by means of video games within the Center East and North Africa (MENA). Pollack invited Shen to speak at Video games for Change, and he moderated a panel on disinformation and video games that try to show individuals about it, reminiscent of Harmony Square.

Earlier than we get derailed with an argument about why the federal government is spending our tax {dollars} to advertise video video games, I ought to say that we want extra individuals like him in authorities. Not due to his politics or something like that, however as a result of he might be an envoy for gaming because it navigates cultural divides and struggles to be understood all over the world. And he can assist create alternatives for recreation corporations exterior of america as they attempt to change the world by means of video games.

Whereas DeLoura, who received the Ambassador Award at the Game Developers Conference in 2017, targeted on home coverage on video games and holding video games and schooling occasions, Shen additionally took on the worldwide facet of the job of understanding video games from a coverage viewpoint. One factor that persevered after DeLoura left was the “federal video games guild,” a group of individuals within the authorities who care about recreation issues. Shen participates in that and needs it to work with personal business.

“What I understood in a short time was that you would be able to’t have any credibility or management with out recruiting the U.S. personal sector,” Shen mentioned. “That features universities, nongovernmental organizations like Video games for Change, International Sport Jam, and North American Scholastic Esports Federation. We must always not faux to be the consultants. The best diplomat in my profession is the citizen diplomat in case you’re trying on the the lengthy recreation.”

Citizen diplomats

Above: Josh Shen talks concerning the State Division’s targets for video games.

Picture Credit score: Video games for Change

Relating to recruiting foreigners and international locations to assist our pursuits and align with their pursuits, you may’t do higher than Americans, Shen mentioned.

“It sounds just a little idealistic and, belief me, I’m not an idealistic fresh-faced State Division officer,” Shen mentioned. “I’m loads cynical in my very own proper. What I’m optimistic is about Americans and the way they will affect others.”

Shen’s job, then, is to allow American recreation builders to get entangled in packages the place others can turn into conscious of their work, whether or not contained in the nation or exterior of it.

Individuals perceive that authorities establishments and NGOs ought to have social media accounts. However Shen believes the identical must be true for collaborating within the recreation ecosystem. A part of getting video games is knowing the world has round 2.7 billion players, and the business is a [$175 billion] enterprise, Shen mentioned. Shouldn’t these establishments have Discord or Twitch accounts, Shen requested.

“We haven’t gotten there but, however we are going to most likely get there sooner or later,” Shen mentioned. “If we’re not there, constructing these relationships, then when will we begin doing this ecosystem? That is like the place social media was 12 years in the past. Gaming is the place individuals are. If you happen to’re not going to have interaction with them, you’re going to overlook a large chunk of the viewers.”

Not about tax breaks

Shen doesn’t give attention to U.S. home enterprise issues, like states giving tax breaks to draw recreation corporations. He’s not a part of the Commerce Division. And he notes that the U.S. recreation corporations haven’t been in search of “carve outs” for the sport business, like different industries have executed. Neither is his give attention to aiding American corporations to maneuver abroad.

Shen has noticed how different international locations have large ambitions to put money into video games. Dubai needs to create the world’s largest esports area. Bahrain needs to develop an ecosystem of recreation studios, and so do many different international locations the place video video games are an rising market. Shen can join paid or volunteer consultants to make introductions to share information so that everybody can “get” video video games.

The twenty first century ability

Above: Josh Shen is a part of the Bureau of Academic & Cultural Affairs (ECA), a department of the U.S. Division of State.

Picture Credit score: Video games for Change

“I feel it’s been well-liked to show each child find out how to code for fairly a variety of years now,” Shen mentioned. “This can be a twenty first century core ability. You all you want to know find out how to code. I’d say some stage of recreation design is the kind of ability everyone wants. One of many issues we do within the State Division is to foster next-level expertise, whether or not it’s English, or some kind of maker house exercise, or some kind of coding.”

The State Division has some packages to assist this. And Shen believes that studying recreation design is without doubt one of the expertise that may contribute to economically secure, sustainable, and peaceable international locations. Individuals must develop expertise and Shen mentioned, “We give them a playbook for that to allow them to do it themselves.”

If that’s not your traditional concept of what the State Division does, Shen is within the Bureau of Academic Cultural Affairs, which has the delicate packages that helps issues like Fulbright researchers, athletes, musicians, hip hop artists, journalists, and entrepreneurs. This bureau brings individuals to the U.S. to teach People and it sends People out to show others. Shen mentioned his position isn’t partisan.

He was at Video games for Change, the occasion for video games with social affect, as a result of that’s the place he finds lots of the individuals with fascinating concepts that transcend the purely business and leisure pursuits.

“We love triple-A publishers, however we actually do much more with impartial builders who suppose that video games have a social affect,” Shen mentioned. “And that’s what we’re actually excited to to assist.”

Letting others communicate

Above: By no means Alone drew consideration to tales of indigenous individuals.

Picture Credit score: E-Line Media

The federal government isn’t going to create academic video games as a result of it doesn’t have the expertise, and the method of presidency funding is susceptible to delays. However it may facilitate the connections that may assist introduce video video games in locations that sorely want them. He just lately had Alan Gershenfeld, whose firm E-Line has made video games like Never Alone, speak with Canadian builders about indigenous communities in video games. And he organized a visitation associated to esports entrepreneurship.

“I’m getting the phrase out that the State Division is on this house, and may assist in any variety of other ways of packages within the house of getting the phrase out to our embassies,” Shen mentioned. “Our embassies and consulates take the lead on our method to have interaction overseas audiences.”

Not all the subjects might be nice for the business pursuits, however they’re obligatory for the world we reside in. One of many considerations is to show others find out how to use content material moderation and promotion of optimistic behaviors to cope with the presence of on-line extremism in online game communities.

One of many issues that the brand new administration cares about is local weather change, and the United Nations has a game-related program, Playing for the Planet, to lift consciousness about it.

“This has lots of eyeballs on it,” Shen mentioned.

And so he’s attempting to lift consciousness of how video games can be utilized to teach individuals about local weather issues. You may consider him as gaming’s level man within the authorities, and his understanding of video games is essential at a time when gaming saved our sanity and our friendships and our connections in the course of the pandemic.

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