Does play placate?

When people are asked to play a game to address a civic or social problem, are they purposely being distanced from the problem? Games, when they work, put players into a space of play, a space that is outside of everyday life, often independent of the barriers and consequences that comprise the everyday. So, when people play a game to open dialogue about corruption in Moldova, or play a game to facilitate cooperation on peace building efforts in Cyprus, the question is not simply “what is the experience of playing,” but also “what are the reasons for making or deploying the game and creating the social position of ‘player’”?

Students at the Salzburg Academy for Media and Global Change design and playtest a game about corruption in Moldova.

Game Efforts Determine Play Placate

Over the last several years, I have been involved in many game efforts with development and humanitarian organizations, working to develop games for collaboration, understanding, and dialogue all over the world. At the end of the month, I will be leading game design workshops in Egypt and in the Kingdom of Bhutan, each in partnership with the UNDP and local youth leaders to help them conceive of and deploy game-based approaches in their local context. As a game designer and researcher, I am interested in the connection between the game (as intervention) and the stated social problem. But what has been capturing my interest lately is  the political and social context in which a game gets conceived, designed and deployed. This last piece is an under recognized part of any game design process, especially when it’s in partnership with a political or development organization.…

Continue reading