Poor Not Guilty featured as a NHLC resource

Matters at Play collaborated with several subject matter stakeholders on the creation of Poor Not Guilty: Fines and Fees Challenge, including the National Homelessness Law Center (NHLC). The challenge is now available on the NHLC’s website along with a suggested Street Law lesson plan.

Did You Know fact provided within one of the 3 Fines and Fees Challenge scenarios referencing NHLC’s #IAskForHelpBecause campaign

The Fines & Fees Challenge is an interactive educational tool based on a series of real-life experiences that highlight how fines and fees for petty offenses create impossible situations for those experiencing poverty and/or homelessness. Each scenario asks the player to make a series of choices in response to an inciting circumstance with the goal of escaping the cycle that financial punishment systems trap them in. To varying degrees throughout the U.S., cities and states impose heavy fines for minor offenses at every stage of the criminal justice system. Millions of Americans get trapped in a cycle of punishment simply because they can’t afford to pay these fines and fees. Without any means of escape from a system designed to punish poverty, many Americans lose their jobs, homes, and even their children. Almost every state has laws that punish and fine people experiencing homelessness for engaging in necessary activities, such as sleeping or sitting in public. These types of policies criminalize homelessness and fail to address its root causes, like the lack of access to affordable and adequate housing.

Partnering organizations on the Poor Not Guilty: Fines & Fees Challenge

About the NHLC

The National Homelessness Law Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., and seeks to serve as the legal arm of the national movement to end and prevent homelessness. We believe that the human rights to adequate housing, healthcare, food, and education lie at the heart of human dignity and we envision a world where no one has to go without the basics of human survival. 

For more on the NHLC, please visit http://homelessnesslaw.org

Teaching Games with Games at GDC 2022

On March 22, 2022, at the 2022 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, CA, Professor Lien Tran joined an esteem group of educators to share new ways to look at games for change and learning. This Educators Summit session called “Teaching Games with Games 7: Changing the Game” was particularly useful for seasoned and new game educators alike, as the issues covered are important, yet not always easy to address within game courses and programs.

Professor Tran shared 3 case studies – Toma el Paso, Dwell TM, and Fines & Fees Challenge – for how games that she designed or co-designed have been discovered and used in ulterior contexts than originally intended over the years. She also shared insights into how designers should account for possible untapped audiences and the educators motivated enough to search, find, play, and learn games that bring awareness to real-world complex social systems. Designers should consider what the teachable moments are for their intended audience; these same teachable moments may be particularly useful for others to get a glimpse into these unfamiliar and surprising systems.



  • John Sharp  (Professor of Games & Learning, Parsons The New School for Design)
  • Colleen Macklin  (Associate Professor of Media Design, Parsons School of Design at The New School)


  • Kishonna Gray  (Associate Professor, University of Kentucky)
  • Dr. Edmond Y. Chang  (Assistant Professor of English, Ohio University)
  • Shawn Pierre  (Visiting Assistant Arts Professor, Independent)
  • Lien Tran  (Assistant Professor, School of Design, College of Computing and Digital Media, DePaul University)
  • TreaAndrea Russworm  (Associate Professor of English & Associate Dean, UMass Amherst)

Big Build Up for the win at #LoveLifePAX Unplugged

PAX Unplugged logo with stylized purple outlines for PAX and word UNPLUGGED below it with a matching purple horizontal line at the bottom

On Sunday, December 12, 2021, Jennifer Ann’s Group (JAG)’s Drew Crescente moderated the “Gaming Against Violence: Unplugged” panel at PAX Unplugged on the potential for analog games to communicate signs of and concerns for Power & Control in romantic relationships.


The judges for JAG’s 2021 Unplugged game design challenge made up the panel speakers: Drew Crecente (he/him/his) [Executive Director, Jennifer Ann’s Group], Dr. Mark Chen (he/him) [Lecturer, University of Washington Bothell], Hannah Corcoran (she/her) [Producer, Auroch Digital], Dr. Krista-Lee Malone (she/her) [Teaching Faculty II (Dr.), UW-Madison], Dr. Elizabeth Levato Richeson (she/her) [Clinical Psychologist / Jennifer Ann’s Group – Advisory Board Chair, Dr. Elizabeth L. Richeson], Dr. Sarah Stang (she/her) [Dr., York University]. 

Hear from the esteemed judges in the video below as they reflect on non-digital prosocial games as a powerful tool to engage young people in difficult topics like dating violence. 

And the winner is….

Matters at Play was featured near the end of the session as one of seven selected #Unplugged finalist with our game The Big Build Up.

At the culmination of the panel, the game design challenge website was updated to announce the winner: Matters at Play with The Big Build Up! We are excited for this recognition and to hear the judges feedback. We also look forward to further developing the game resources for education use with our primary audience of youth ages 13-16.

award winner laurels for 2021 Life Love Game Design Challenge
PAX Unplugged cued up for the #LifeLovePAX panel on “Gaming Against Violence: Unplugged” (starts at 4:32:18)

Going Unplugged with Jennifer Ann’s Group as game challenge finalist

Lien Tran, Matters at Play director and DePaul’s School of Design assistant professor, and Lynn Baus, DePaul’s graduate student in the Experience Design program, teamed up to propose an analog game concept for Jennifer Ann’s Group (JAG)’s 14th Annual Game Design Challenge, which challenges game makers everywhere to design compelling prosocial games for violence prevention.… Continue reading Going Unplugged with Jennifer Ann’s Group as game challenge finalist