Games for Change
Social impact games – on topics like Syria and gun control – are changing the way we learn and participate in civic life.
Tell me more: Monopoly was originally invented, in 1903, to demonstrate the consequences of rent and taxation. More than a hundred years later, board games and digital games are still designed with that same purpose: to create an artificial – and yet totally immersive – space for players to engage with social commentary. Today, social impact games are an industry all their own, and have been designed on topics ranging from mental health and economic inequality to genocide, gender and cancer. Many of these games, designed in the public interest, are available for free; their accessibility means that they can be used both as teaching tools and as inspiration for student-created work.
Classroom Applications: Many classrooms use educational games to make boring material less boring. But what if the game was seen as an opportunity for young people to both learn and teach their peers about difficult topics? Game design is a rich discipline all its own, with connections to probability as much as to discipline-based knowledge. With a built-in authentic audience (the players) and a clear connection to big questions (Why is it so difficult to escape from poverty? – see “Spent”), game-making is a natural way of inviting young people to apply their knowledge in a complex way that requires a deep understanding of interrelated systems.
- Challenges for Game Designers, by Brenda Romero (Brathwaite) and Ian Schreiber – full of excellent non-digital exercises
- The Games, Learning and Society group at the University of Wisconsin Madison