Video games nowadays are a multifunctional tool. According to the research carried out within the Gaming for Skills project, we can use them in education, as a method of spending free time, for inclusion, for increasing the player’s social skills, and so on.
Playing video games is an engaging process that usually involves teamwork and communication. Young people need guidance to understand how they can use video games for social and civic topics.
Youngsters nowadays are more interested in social topics, and they have the will to get involved in their communities. According to the Teens, Video games, and Civics report, created by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (2008), 97% of American teens play video games. 44% of them play games that teach about a specific problem in society, while 52% play games that make them think about moral and ethical issues.
A variety of video games, such as This War of Mine, Call of Duty, My Child Lebensborn, 1979 Revolution, and Papers, Please can be used to raise awareness about community issues or global problems, like climate change, wars, migration, and so on.
Using video games for increasing knowledge and awareness about serious problems that our communities face also allows more young people to get involved, as it’s an enjoyable way for them to learn and it keeps them motivated. These kinds of sessions can also be hosted in schools by teachers.
For developing knowledge about migration and raising awareness about terrorism or the consequences of the war, you can use the following games:
- Papers, Please – This game emotionally involves the player, as they play the role of a border officer which has to decide, based on the right documents, who will cross the border into the fictional country Arstotzka. The player has to make difficult choices, considering aspects like efficiency, humanity, family and democracy, and is later confronted by the consequences of their choices. Among the immigrants and visitors looking for work in Arstotzka, there are hidden smugglers, spies, and terrorists. In this way, the player will learn how to pay attention to the small details, being efficient and also being a witness to the consequences of a terrorist crossing the border.
- My Child Lebensborn – This game is made to raise awareness about the effects of war, especially on kids. More specifically, it shows the effects of World War II, when more children were either killed or orphaned than at any other time in history. In this game, you play the role of a foster parent of a child that was part of the . The Nazis’ regime developed the Lebensborn program to increase Germany’s population (Holocaust Encyclopedia, 2020). During the Second World War, the program included kidnapping foreign children and raising children at private maternity homes (known as the Lebensborn houses) You have to help the child with its basic, daily needs. The child’s mood depends on the player’s actions and how the player uses their resources to buy what the child needs throughout the day.
These are only two examples of video games that can be used to develop the knowledges of young people regarding important social topics and to help them to expand their sense of social responsibility. There are many more available that fit the interests of all kinds of gamers.
On the Gaming for Skills website, you can find the following pedagogical sequences using the above-mentioned games: Immigration and Human Rights with Papers, Please; What Would You Have Done?; and How to Survive a Crisis. You can also find many more games to use in the classroom.
Holocaust Encyclopedia. (2020). Lebensborn Program. Holocaust Encyclopedia. Available at: https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/lebensborn-program
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. (2008). Teens, Video games, and Civics report. Pew Research Center. Available at: https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2008/09/16/teens-video-games-and-civics/