Media literacy game from UW–Madison’s Field Day Lab wins big at Games for Change Awards

An educational video game focused on media literacy created at UW–Madison’s Field Day Lab won two top honors at the 2024 Games for Change Awards last week.

The Games for Change Awards recognize the best social impact games and extended reality experiences of the year from across the country, highlighting creativity, innovation, and powerful storytelling. Field Day Lab’s Headlines and High Water, a game aimed at giving middle school students crucial media literacy skills by allowing them to step into the shoes of a journalist, won the Best in Learning and Best in Civics categories. 

Image courtesy Field Day Lab

Headlines and High Water takes a different approach than most literacy literacy games, allowing players to learn about the nuances and detailed processes of creating great journalism. In the game, players gain insight into reporters’ values, challenges, and what it takes to make — and recognize — quality journalism. Several media organizations across the state wrote stories about the game’s release last year, including the Cap Times, Tone Madison, The Badger Herald, WGBA-TV in Green Bay, Wisconsin Public Radio, and PBS Wisconsin.  

Another game from Field Day Lab, Wake: Tales from the Aqualab, was a finalist in the Best in Environmental Impact category.

Field Day Lab is based in the UW–Madison School of Education’s Wisconsin Center for Education Research. It has won previous national honors for other games, including multiple awards in 2022 for The Legend of the Lost Emerald.

The lab’s latest game is Bloom: The Saga of the Poop Fertilizer Economy, a collaborative effort with UW–Madison engineering professor Victor Zavala. Bloom teaches high school students how to harness systems engineering and attempt to navigate one of the biggest environmental challenges facing the United States right now — algae blooms. The web-based game puts players in charge of managing and balancing the agricultural, environmental, and economic health of several communities. Phosphorus runoff, spurred by dairy cows’ manure and abundant crop fertilizer, leads to algae blooms that threaten water quality across the communities — and the solutions aren’t as simple as they may seem.

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