Good Game – Democracy Well Played: Games are an important part of political education

Unlike all other media, games have a special feature: they make complex stories and problems tangible. These can only be developed if the players themselves are enabled using the game mechanics: they become an important part of the support. This, in turn, makes the games even more interesting for political education work. In serious games, for example, knowledge is transmitted in a consciously creative way, which is gradually acquired by the players themselves. This allows privileged access to serious topics as well as historical and political events. The motivation to process this content is significantly higher because it is presented as a game. Because the person playing the game makes their own decisions in the game, for example, actions are remembered more permanently as an experience.

To illustrate how serious games, which deal with the big topic of right-wing extremism, can be used in practice, let’s first look at the following three games.

“Through the Darkest Times”

In this historical strategy game from the developer paint bucket games the resistance against National Socialism during the Third Reich becomes the theme. Player:der coordinates a civil resistance group in Berlin, fights for freedom and wants to weaken the system.

About the game:

“hidden code”

This mobile game from the Anne Frank educational institution is devoted, among other things, to right-wing radicalization on the Internet. The: The player sees a social media environment, chats with people, looks at profiles, and reacts to stories, just like she: you probably know from her daily life. The aim is to find out how radical groups work and what you can do if someone in your own environment becomes radicalized. The Anne Frank Education Center provides additional materials for use in the classroom.

About the game: https://game.hidden-codes.of

“Papers please!”

In this simulation game from Lucas Pope, the player assumes the role of an inspector at a border crossing in the fictional state of Arstotzka in 1982. He must follow the laws of the government and decide which immigrants are allowed to cross the border . and which ones do not. As a result, the player is confronted with playful, ethical and moral challenges.

To the game:

In their own way, all three games provide insight into politically and socially relevant issues in the realm of right-wing extremism, both with aspects of the past being addressed and with glimpses of the present and future that results. In this way, they show how important it is to deal with these issues at this time. For example, “Hidden Codes” uses the messenger look that most young people are familiar with on their own smartphones to clearly show how easily far-right slogans and symbols can be spread. As you play, you can recognize dangers to yourself and incorporate what you’ve learned into your own reality, into your own chat history. Here, too, it is possible to ask within the framework of the educational work whether a person has already had experience with such information, to return to the subject of media competence and to discuss recommendations for action. “Hidden Codes” is particularly suitable for talking to young people about the codes and symbols of the extreme right. The game “Papers, please!” deals with issues of flight and migration.

Practical use in political education work

For political education work, this concretely means that the three games presented are a good starting point for educating and discussing the topic of right-wing extremism. From a practice perspective, the focus below should be primarily on school lessons as a possible place of application, but this approach is also possible in other areas, such as work in youth clubs, associations and workshops.

First, teachers should view games as a stand-alone medium that complements commonly used movies and books. Depending on the knowledge to be transmitted and the exchanges to be carried out, one of the games should be chosen. This could first be played by the students on site, if school technology permits.

If this is not possible, public videos such as the trailer or “Let’s Play” can be used to get a sense of the game, its message and its “feel”. At this stage, the goal is not necessarily to play the entire game, but to get an idea, to take a closer look at the different sections, to talk about them, and to reflect.

To think, it is important not only to play the game, but also to set tasks at the same time. What should be considered or analyzed exactly? What aspects do players need to work on? Exactly these questions can be noted on a worksheet from the start: students can answer them alone or with others while playing and writing down their thoughts.

Then it is important to comment on what was experienced in the game or what was seen in the video. Using “Papers, please!” For example, these can be questions and topics for discussion:

  • How did you feel when you had to make the decision whether or not to allow the entry of a refugee?
  • Did you just decide based on your intuition or which aspects were particularly important to you?
  • what did you observe
  • Let’s compare what the work of an immigration office looks like in reality and how the situation was presented in the game.

It is precisely this comparison of game and reality that is particularly exciting, because it can be linked to current events that have played a role in news reports, for example.

Other ideas for classroom games

  • Discussing games like reading or watching a movie is one of the many ways they can be part of the lesson. In addition, the following and other options are conceivable, for example, which work independently of the three games presented and can be transferred to different themes.
  • The students present their favorite game (for example, in the form of a presentation).
  • The whole class, including the teacher, plays games together, which are mainly for entertainment and social interaction among those present. Simple browser games like “Gartic Phone” (a mix of “Silent Post” and “Monday Painter” or “City, Country, River”) are suitable for this.
  • Cooperation with a local esports club to promote team play, receive technical support and enable individual game competitions.
  • Take individual characters or objects from games and transfer them into tasks.

This text is an extract from the brochure:

Amadeu Antonio Foundation / Good Game – Democracy Well Played:
“Hating without pixelating. Toxic and far-right gaming communities.
Berlin 2022

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