Counterpoints Arts — through its PopChange initiative — is pleased to be working with Code Coven, and US-based care advocates Caring Across Generations and National Domestic Workers Alliance to host Care Jam 2021 from 2-9 December, 2021.
Leading care advocates and gaming innovators in the U.S and the UK are teaming up to explore how video games, which nearly 3 billion people worldwide actively play, can change the way that people think about caregiving.
Care Jam 2021, a weeklong hackathon-type experience for gaming, is the first of its kind to bring together game developers and people touched by care—people with disabilities, ageing adults, family carers and care workers—from across the world to design gaming experiences that raise awareness about the intricacies of giving and receiving care. Participants will learn about harmful caregiving stereotypes and incorporate lived experiences of care into video and analog game prototypes that seek to build game players’ empathy and understanding.
The Game Jam follows Carers Rights Day which is held in the UK on 25 November, and this year has a focus on the rights of unpaid carers.
Game Jams as innovative spaces
“Video games have been long overlooked as a tool for social justice,” said Marzena Zukowska, Care Jam co-producer and co-author of the pop culture report New Brave World. “Games offer uniquely interactive ways of experiencing narratives, whether seeing the world through the eyes of someone with dementia or saving the planet as a queer disabled superhero. We hope this inaugural Care Jam sparks new ideas and solutions for one of the most pressing social issues of our time.”
Unlike hackathons, which tend to focus strictly on solutions to problems, game jams encourage people with diverse skill sets and lived experiences to test out ideas and explore story-based gaming concepts. The Care Jam is open to the public and event organisers invite participants to reimagine caregiving within game storylines and structures.
“The pandemic has accelerated the proliferation of games, welcoming new and diverse audiences,” said Karla Reyes, event co-producer and business development head at Code Coven, an accelerator and learning community for underrepresented game developers. “Game developers, however, do not fully reflect the rich diversity of players. By empowering underrepresented creators and storytellers with resources to develop interactive experiences, we hope to increase representation both on and behind the screen and inspire participants and players across the globe to explore the intricacies of care.”
The gaming industry, like many other mass media industries, has long been dominated by white, cisgender and able-bodied men. Games and other media tend to privilege these dominant identities and cultural norms while underrepresenting and caricaturing people with non-dominant identities.
Caregiving is a critical, intersecting social issue
“Positioning people most impacted by care as protagonists in games and other cultural mediums can challenge the deeply held beliefs around race, gender, able-bodiedness and citizenship at the root of why societies devalue care,” said Sarah Vitti, culture change manager at Caring Across Generations. “When we challenge and begin to rewrite those narratives, we can transform attitudes, norms, and behaviour, including how societies support care across the lifespan.”
The pandemic has underscored that care across all stages of life is essential for families and economies across the world. Yet, care work—disproportionately carried out by women and especially by migrant workers and women of color—remains severely underpaid, undervalued and without benefits. In the UK, more than 70% of care workers are paid below the Real Living Wage. One in eight adults in the UK, or 6.5 million adults, care for a family member or friend with little support or recognition, despite saving the economy £132 billion per year. Care Jam, like this year’s Carers Rights Day on 25 November, hopes to raise awareness of unpaid carers’ rights.
“In the UK, Covid and Brexit have highlighted the vital yet undervalued role migrant and Black communities play in the care sector,” said Marcia Chandra, creative producer at Counterpoints Arts. “Using the power of pop culture to shift how we think about care in our everyday lives has the potential to impact wider narratives around migration and racial justice, and move people, communities and institutions towards social change.”
Organisations Leading Care Jam
Leading caregiving advocates, narrative change and gaming innovators based in the United States and United Kingdom, including:
Caring Across Generations is a national movement of families, caregivers, people with disabilities, and aging Americans working to transform the way we care in the US.
Code Coven is an education platform and online accelerator for marginalised communities, including people of colour and gender‑nonconforming individuals, who want to work in the gaming industry.
Counterpoints Arts is a leading UK organisation in the field of arts, migration and cultural change. Its PopChange initiative explores the power of pop culture for social change through comedy, gaming and TV/film.
Weeklong “game jam” bringing together game developers, caregivers, and people who receive care from across the world to design gaming experiences to challenge harmful stereotypes about care work and change perspectives on the role that caregiving plays in families and communities. Gaming or game design experience not necessary to participate.
Several launch events will precede the game jam, including an online live-streamed discussion on November 30th from 6:00-7:30pm GMT featuring leading game designers, culture change experts, people with disabilities and carers. Follow #CareJam2021 for updates.
This game jam is open to anyone aged 18+. No previous game development experience is required, just a willingness to engage with the themes and get creative!
We welcome and encourage participation from:
- all genders, races, ethnicities, religions and abilities.
- people who have lived experience as a family caregiver, care worker, or someone who receives care.
- experienced game developers and creators.
- artists, storytellers and creatives interested in applying their skills to games.
- folks with outstanding commitments such as work or school. Participants are able to work on their own schedule, and we recommend participants working with others communicate their availability upfront so teams can properly plan their project.
Virtual Roundtable & Care Jam Kick-Off: “Can Video Games Help Us Reimagine Care? | Roundtable Discussion”: 6:00-7:30pm GMT on 30 November 2021, streamed live on Twitch and Facebook.
Virtual week-long Care Jam: 7:30pm GMT on December 2 until 7:30 GMT on 9 December, 2021.