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Game Changers: Here, There, & Everywhere

“Unfriend” was the word of the year, according to the New Oxford English Dictionary, which gave “Podcasting” that honor in 2005. It’s only February, but mark my words, “Game Changer” may walk away with this year’s honors. 

Honestly, I’m actually missing William Safire right about now. The conservative Nixon speechwriter of “nattering nabobs of negativism fame” penned the On Language column for The New York Times for 30 years before his death in September, 2009, and before he got a chance to unpack “game changer,” a phrase that lately seems to be popping up in print at a Whack-a-Mole’s pace. (UPDATE: I stand corrected. See comments below!)

Paging through the Washington Post this weekend, there it was in black and white: “Las Vegas bets the future on a game-changing new hotel complex.” Articles about the Sundance Film Festival included the phrase “cinematic game-changer.” And, the term “game changer” was part of the hype over the newly unveiled Apple iPad and the newly-elected GOP Senator from Massachusetts Scott Brown. Columbia Journalism Review published an article asking “Is Haiti’s Earthquake a ‘Game Changer.'” 

It’s popular in the geek press: Epson PictureMate Show: Printer or GameChanger? in the Post from PCWorld and this article in Wired called Game Changers: How Videogames Trained a Generation of Athletes. 

And, of course, Game Change is the title of the John Heilemann and Mark Halperin’s new book about the 2008 Presidential election, now in its second week at the top of the NYT Bestseller list for Hardcover Nonfiction.

Perhaps if Safire were alive, he’d say something erudite like, “Game changer is a moniker that reflects the zeitgeist (the spirit of our times.) In periods of crisis, we look to messiahs – people or products – that will solve our problems or lead us to higher ground.” (Okay, Safire would have written something way smarter than that.)

But that leads me back to what got me interested in the whole game changer phenomenon in the first place. February 3 at midnight is the deadline to vote in the WeMedia 2010 Game Changer Awards which honors “people, projects, ideas and organizations leading change and inspiring a better world through media.” 

Twitter, the Knight Foundation and Ushahidi were among the winners last year. 

“What’s a Game Changer?,” WeMedia asks. “Game Changers lead society to knowledge.They inspire involvement and action through media … Whether through exceptional storytelling, novel business models, significant social impact, brilliant design or powerful vision, we’re seeking to honor achievers and examples that can serve as beans of inspiration for the next generation of game changers.”

And the nominees are: 24 people and projects, including Patricia Aufderheide of the Center for Social Media, Wendy Brawer, founder of Green Maps, international blog aggregator Global Voices, community empowerment tool SeeClickFix, and the investigative multimedia Common Language Project, among many others.

You can get into the game of voting. Check out this list of Game Changers, follow the links to their sites, and weigh in on who you think is making the deepest difference. 

But, of course, that’s not the only reference to Game Changers on my agenda. Yet another awards competition is underway, handing out $5,000 – $50,000 in prizes for “new, creative, user-generated levels and adventures designed for either of two existing commercial games …  LittleBigPlanet or Spore Galactic Adventures.” For the non-gamers among us, these are two popular visionary, participatory games worth knowing about, if not also worth playing. It’s a reminder the some of the most game-changing developments in the digital world are those that create new and better virtual worlds, where fun is allowed. This Digital Media and Learning Competition is funded by the MacArthur Foundation.

Are you a game changer? Is there a game-changing project you think deserves attention? Tell me about it by emailing julie AT airmedia DOT org, or adding your comments below. 

And, let me know if you think “game changer” is over-used. This game-changing year has just begun.