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Josh Shen is one of the only persons in the federal government whose job has a lot to do with video games. He’s a foreign service officer in the State Department, and he surfaced this week as a speaker at the Games for Change on-line occasion about games that make a social effect in our lives.
You can believe of him as a pal of the gaming sector in Washington, D.C.
Previously, our man in D.C. was Mark Loura, who worked in the White House for the duration of the Obama administration in 2013 and 2014. This week, Shen gave a speak about how governments can support develop the game sector, and he wasn’t speaking about tax breaks or recruiting overseas game firms to build jobs in the U.S.
He is the strategic designer for interactive media and video games in the Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs (ECA), a branch of the U.S. Department of State that promotes education, understanding, and public diplomacy applications to the 2.7 billion gamers worldwide. That’s a significant job for just one guy.
“It’s a process, and everything is a series of opportunities where you fill in the gaps,” Shen stated in an interview with GamesBeat. “My job started in 2019. It was a brand-new assignment, but they were able to identify the need. How often as a bureaucrat can you be the owner and only guru on subject matter like this? A lot of people recognized we need to be in this space, but they didn’t have any idea where to get started.”
Games for Change
Games for Change is the epicenter for speaking about games that have a social effect, and it took location this week, with tons of fantastic speakers who are at the intersection of government, sector, and nonprofits in gaming.
Susanna Pollack, the organizer of Games for Change, stated in an interview she admires the work the State Department has begun to do to foster cross-cultural understanding via games in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Pollack invited Shen to speak at Games for Change, and he moderated a panel on disinformation and games that try to teach persons about it, such as Harmony Square.
Before we get derailed with an argument about why the government is spending our tax dollars to market video games, I must say that we want more persons like him in government. Not simply because of his politics or something like that, but simply because he can be an ambassador for gaming as it navigates cultural divides and struggles to be understood about the world. And he can support build possibilities for game firms outdoors of the United States as they attempt to alter the world via games.
While DeLoura, who won the Ambassador Award at the Game Developers Conference in 2017, focused on domestic policy on games and holding games and education events, Shen also took on the international aspect of the job of understanding games from a policy point of view. One issue that persisted immediately after DeLoura left was the “federal games guild,” a collection of persons in the government who care about game matters. Shen participates in that and desires it to work with private sector.
“What I understood very quickly was that you can’t have any credibility or leadership without recruiting the U.S. private sector,” Shen stated. “That includes universities, nongovernmental organizations like Games for Change, Global Game Jam, and North American Scholastic Esports Federation. We should not pretend to be the experts. The most effective diplomat in my career is the citizen diplomat if you’re looking at the the long game.”
When it comes to recruiting foreigners and nations to assistance our interests and align with their interests, you can not do far better than American citizens, Shen stated.
“It sounds a little idealistic and, trust me, I’m not an idealistic fresh-faced State Department officer,” Shen stated. “I’m plenty cynical in my own right. What I’m optimistic is about American citizens and how they can impact others.”
Shen’s job, then, is to allow American game developers to get involved in applications exactly where other individuals can come to be conscious of their work, irrespective of whether inside the nation or outdoors of it.
People realize that government institutions and NGOs must have social media accounts. But Shen believes the very same must be accurate for participating in the game ecosystem. Part of receiving games is understanding the world has about 2.7 billion gamers, and the sector is a [$175 billion] company, Shen stated. Shouldn’t these institutions have Discord or Twitch accounts, Shen asked.
“We haven’t gotten there yet, but we will probably get there at some point,” Shen stated. “If we’re not there, building those relationships, then when do we start doing this ecosystem? This is like where social media was 12 years ago. Gaming is where people are. If you’re not going to engage with them, you’re going to miss a sizable chunk of the audience.”
Not about tax breaks
Shen does not focus on U.S. domestic company matters, like states providing tax breaks to attract game firms. He’s not element of the Commerce Department. And he notes that the U.S. game firms have not been hunting for “carve outs” for the game sector, like other industries have completed. Nor is his focus on assisting American firms to move overseas.
Shen has observed how other nations have significant ambitions to invest in games. Dubai desires to build the world’s biggest esports arena. Bahrain desires to create an ecosystem of game studios, and so do several other nations exactly where video games are an emerging marketplace. Shen can connect paid or volunteer consultants to make introductions to share understanding so that everybody can “get” video games.
The 21st century talent
“I think it’s been popular to teach every kid how to code for quite a number of years now,” Shen stated. “This is a 21st century core skill. You all you need to know how to code. I would say some level of game design is the type of skill everybody needs. One of the things we do in the State Department is to foster next-level skills, whether it’s English, or some type of maker space activity, or some type of coding.”
The State Department has some applications to assistance this. And Shen believes that understanding game style is one of the abilities that can contribute to economically steady, sustainable, and peaceful nations. People want to create abilities and Shen stated, “We give them a playbook for that so they can do it themselves.”
If that is not your usual concept of what the State Department does, Shen is in the Bureau of Educational Cultural Affairs, which has the soft applications that supports items like Fulbright researchers, athletes, musicians, hip hop artists, journalists, and entrepreneurs. This bureau brings persons to the U.S. to educate Americans and it sends Americans out to teach other individuals. Shen stated his part is not partisan.
He was at Games for Change, the occasion for games with social effect, simply because that is exactly where he finds a lot of the persons with fascinating suggestions that go beyond the purely industrial and entertainment interests.
“We love triple-A publishers, but we really do a lot more with independent developers who think that games have a social impact,” Shen stated. “And that’s what we’re really excited to to support.”
Letting other individuals speak
The government is not going to build educational games simply because it does not have the talent, and the course of action of government funding is prone to delays. But it can facilitate the connections that can support introduce video games in locations that sorely want them. He lately had Alan Gershenfeld, whose firm E-Line has made games like Never Alone, speak with Canadian developers about indigenous communities in games. And he arranged a visitation connected to esports entrepreneurship.
“I’m getting the word out that the State Department is interested in this space, and can support in any number of different ways of programs in the space of getting the word out to our embassies,” Shen stated. “Our embassies and consulates take the lead on our approach to engage foreign audiences.”
Not all of the subjects will be pleasant for the industrial interests, but they are essential for the world we live in. One of the issues is to teach other individuals how to use content moderation and promotion of positive behaviors to deal with the presence of on-line extremism in video game communities.
One of the items that the new administration cares about is climate alter, and the United Nations has a game-connected plan, Playing for the Planet, to raise awareness about it.
“This has a lot of eyeballs on it,” Shen stated.
And so he’s attempting to raise awareness of how games can be used to educate persons about climate matters. You can believe of him as gaming’s point man in the government, and his understanding of games is essential at a time when gaming saved our sanity and our friendships and our connections for the duration of the pandemic.