Phil Zoshak writes for Bleeding Cool:
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak about Game Changer, a new nerd nonprofit program of Page 15, a children’s literacy nonprofit in Downtown Orlando, that teaches kids how to learn through play. We take games likes Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, and Chess, and infuse an educational curriculum into them, so our kids are having fun and learning at the same time. We have launched an Indiegogo campaign to help us raise funds that will allow our program to grow and serve more kids over the next two years.
I’m excited about Game Changer because it’s really full circle for me, this would be the program that I really wished I found when I was growing up. I was a nerdy kid, and I really was struggling navigating the treacherous waters, that was high school. I’m embarrassed to say this, as I now work for Page 15, but, I HATED reading and writing. The Language Arts was my worst subject, and I had a solid F coming out of my first semester in high school. Needless to say, I was struggling. That all changed when a friend invited me to her Dungeons and Dragons game.
From the moment I picked up the funny looking dice, I was hooked. D&D allowed me to express myself in a creative way that I was never exposed to before. I could be anything I wanted to be, and had the freedom to act anyway I wanted inside the game. It was D&D that ignited my passion for language arts, and creativity. Because D&D is a shared narrative experience, I became exposed to the non-academic manner of story-telling that sparked my desire to read fantasy novels. When I would go home from my D&D sessions, I would write about what happened in my adventure that day.
Sure, they were pretty bad stories, but D&D got me excited to write creatively. Essentially, D&D kindled in me a love of the language arts, without me being necessarily aware it was happening. I only came to this conclusion in my adulthood, on the onset of creating Game Changer. I want to give the future generation the same opportunity I had. To develop a passion for language arts, and a life-long love of learning, while being around a supportive group of people from all different backgrounds and experiences, coming together to make a truly epic story. That’s the power of Game Changer, and gaming.
We did two years of research, and a lot of testing, and we are very proud of what we accomplished with our first official Game Changer program, a Dungeons and Dragons creative writing summer camp. It was a one week camp that mixed a D&D campaign with a creative writing curriculum. We had a great group of kids, who were either really into writing, but never experienced a game of D&D before, or kids who have been exposed to D&D, but didn’t like writing. At the start of our camp, most of our kids were shy, and unsure of what to expect from the game.
It was really great to see them grow over the course of week, becoming confident in their play style and in their characters, and really sharing in the adventure together as a group. On the last day of camp, we wanted to do something really special for the kids, and give them something to remember the camp. So we took their writing and created a professionally bound book of their group’s adventure, piecing their points of view together to create a complete fantasy story. The kids loved it, and it was a great way to give them something tangible of their experience.
We knew we had something solid after our first program, the hard work my team and I did, certainly paid off. Emboldened by this success, we decided to launch the Indiegogo campaign to raise the funds necessary to make Game Changer a year-round program. The money we raise will go to serving more kids, and ensuring that our programs remain free of charge to those who need it most. We need the support of gamer’s everywhere to help us reach our goal, and we have some exciting perks for those that contribute. With the community’s help our vision for Game Changer will succeed, and we will be able to help kids become motivated to learn.