Research

ONGOING INITIATIVES

Cabinet Shuffle Game Prototype Project

William Robinson, a graduate student at the TAG Centre and a member of the Civic Gaming Project, worked with David Waddington to develop a tabletop game to capture and explore an important political moment: the choosing of Justin Trudeau’s first cabinet.

In 2015, Trudeau explained that he wanted to “present to Canada a cabinet that looks like Canada” and was widely lauded for his unprecedented commitment to diversity and gender parity. However, Trudeau was criticized for selecting ministers with comparatively less experience in federal politics, sparking a debate about meritocracy.

Inspired in part by Trudeau’s pioneering choices, Cabinet Shuffle is a game that lets you explore a simplified version of these decisions in a casual and fun way. It hopes to encourage discussion about identity and politics, while also familiarizing players with the people who govern Canada. 

Visit cabinetshuffle.ca for full information about the game, including instructional videos, how to order a copy, and interviews with Will and David.

Fate of the World: Assessing The Educational Impact of a Climate Change Simulation
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Education is one of the central challenges of climate change. It is a difficult problem to understand, as it involves a complex global network of social actors and scientific causes, and it is also an extraordinarily difficult problem to address, as it will likely require collective action that will be very strongly opposed by some social actors (e.g. energy companies). However, without an adequate understanding of both of these aspects of climate change, citizens will be at a disadvantage when they are faced with political and social choices that are bound up with this problem.

This is where our work with a simulation game, Fate of the World (henceforth FOTW), comes in. FOTW is the most complex, detailed climate change simulation currently on the market. In our pilot study of FOTW in 2013, we challenged six participants to play the game for periods ranging between 10-30 hours, and analyzed their responses to the game through qualitative interview techniques and analysis of save files. In June of 2015, we completed data collection for a larger study of FOTW, with over 30 participants. The most preliminary results of the quantitative portion of the study were presented at the poster session of the Games+Learning+Society conference in July 2015. Check out the poster…

In addition to the empirical study of FOTW, the team has also been using it to illustrate some important theoretical arguments about civic gaming. In a keynote address to Canadian Philosophy of Education Society, David Waddington argued that FOTW was an example of the kind of social simulation that interested John Dewey, and defended video games from suggestions that video games are insufficiently “real” to promote Deweyan educational experiences. Read the article that resulted from this talk…

Get Water! Casual Civic Gaming Project

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The increasing popularity of “casual games” on mobile devices raises the possibility of building casual civic games. This project examines the educational potential of Get Water!, a Concordia-designed iOS/Android endless runner game intended to promote awareness of the link between water scarcity and women’s access to education in the developing world. In the first stage of the project, we used a variety of methods (play observations, qualitative interviews, surveys) to conduct an in-depth case study of the game. This case study, which revealed, among other things, that Get Water! spurred participants to seek out information and to discuss water scarcity with others, prompted us to undertake a large-scale quantitative study of the game, which is currently underway.

 

 

COMPLETED INITIATIVES

DEFCON: Education from Inside the Bunker

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This project investigated the impact of DEFCON, a critically acclaimed nuclear war strategy game, on university students’ attitudes toward nuclear weapons. DEFCON is a game which gives users an “in the bunker at NORAD” experience–as a grim soundtrack plays and sirens wail, players must make decisions about how best to use their nation’s nuclear arsenal as well as attempt to defend against incoming strikes. As the game’s tagline–”Everybody dies”–indicates, playing DEFCON implies reckoning with the terrifying power of nuclear weapons, and video game ethicists have consequently theorized that DEFCON is an especially promising game in terms of getting users to think about the world outside the game. Our project put this hypothesis to the test and demonstrated that DEFCON did indeed prompt players to reflect critically on the dangers of proliferation.

Read the article…

 

A Parallel World for the World Bank: A Case Study of Urgent: Evoke, an Alternate Reality Game

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In this project, we undertook an analysis of Urgent: Evoke, an alternate reality game launched in 2010 by the World Bank. Created by renowned designer Jane McGonigal, Evoke’s basic mission was to promote an ideology of entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship in the developing world. Our short case study offers an overview of alternate reality games, explores some of the possible uses of this genre in higher education, and offers a detailed, critical assessment of the Evoke project and its results.

Read the article…