Cinereach and Anima Interactive reveal Just Play: A Game Jam for Justice $10K competition


Cinereach and Anima Interactive announced Just Play: A Game Jam for Justice as a gaming competition with a $10,000 prize.

Cinereach, is a media nonprofit responsible for Academy Award nominees like Marcel the Shell with Shoes On and Beasts of the Southern Wild. The inaugural video game initiative, Just Play, is aimed at inspiring game makers, artists, and developers to create innovative video games and prototypes themed around justice.

This creative endeavor will be judged by industry veterans from Xbox, WINGS, Raw Fury, and other influential entities. The culmination of this competition will be an awards ceremony and game showcase scheduled for March at SXSW 2024.

“We are thrilled to delve into complex themes such as justice through our distinctive research approach,” said Jennifer Strachan, CEO of Cinereach, in a statement. “Cinereach recognizes the immense potential of interactive storytelling and entertainment in reshaping perceptions. With Just Play, we aim to enrich the understanding and portrayal of justice through gameplay and interactive narratives, eager to witness the imaginative contributions from this vibrant community.”

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Jennifer Strachan is CEO of Cinereach.

In a collaboration, Cinereach’s inaugural venture into interactive media will be co-produced with Anima Interactive, a highly anticipated immersive media studio known for its socially conscious initiatives. Anima Interactive’s debut partnership with Cinereach aims to showcase gaming as a catalyst for positive societal and cultural transformation. With expertise across social impact, creative technology, media, and video games, Anima Interactive is set to foster a community of like-minded artists and advocates.

“We are honored to join forces with Cinereach on Just Play, an innovative initiative pushing narrative boundaries and driving cultural change through games,” said Karla Reyes, founder and studio director of Anima Interactive, in a statement. “With over 3 billion gamers globally and an unprecedented scale surpassing film, television, and music combined, video games possess a remarkable platform for inspiring real-world impact. Co-producing this project empowers creators to explore profound themes like justice and harness the transformative potential of interactive media.”

Reyes will be our emcee at our GamesBeat at The Game Awards on December 7.

Reyes connected with Cinereach through a friend who was a film producer, as Cinereach was interested in exploring interactive media in its quest to create art that had social impact in areas such as sustainability and justice.

“That was very aligned with the ethos of my new studio and a lot of the work that I’ve been doing in the industry to date, which is really focused on impact-driven games,” Reyes said. “We thought this was a really opportune time to collaborate and identify ways that we can support each other.”

The Just Play game jam commences on December 1 and continues through January 6, 2024. Participants are tasked with crafting and submitting new video game prototypes addressing justice-related themes encompassing community, ecological, economic, health, narrative, post-colonial, spiritual, and technology.

To fuel creativity and encourage innovative thinking, Cinereach and Anima Interactive will share insights and host virtual community events during the submission period, exploring diverse expressions of justice in games and entertainment media.

Strachan said it is a fascinating time to explore gaming and the idea that games can have social impact.

“We’re really on a path of discovery and exploration of what the interactive community and gamers could do to advance ideas and help us have a deeper impact in the entertainment industry,” Strachan said.

Karla Reyes founder and studio director at Anima Interactive.  She is our emcee.
Karla Reyes founder and studio director at Anima Interactive.

Judging the submissions will be a distinguished panel of professional game developers, narrative change experts, and creatives spanning various media. Finalists will be revealed in February 2024, receiving recognition at an official awards ceremony during SXSW on March 9, 2024. Exceptional winners will also shine at the SXSW Creative Industries Expo showcase from March 10 to 13. Additionally, select finalists might participate in a workshop hosted by Cinereach to further develop their prototypes.

Reyes said the game jam will be spread over five weeks, giving developers enough time to come up with more thoughtful and meaningful projects. Submissions will happen online, and the finalists will appear at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas in the spring on March 9.

The inaugural Just Play: A Game Jam for Justice proudly enjoys the support of esteemed community partners including IGDA, Global Game Jam, and Games for Change.

For individuals or teams eager to participate in Just Play: A Game Jam for Justice, detailed information is available at justplayjam.com.

Strachan noted that games have had a reputation of being toxic or too violent, though she sees how there is more diversity of content and gameplay now. Reyes noted that groups like Games for Change are highlighting games that make a difference.

“That’s why I think its a really opportune time to encourage and empower developers to explore these narratives. I think some people will shy away from it due to the potential risk,” Strachan said.

They both noted it is important to hit a magic recipe where the game hits critical issues that are important for people to learn about at the same time they’re being entertained.

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