“Games today often have content – serious content – that directs our attention to real and urgent problems at hand. We are wrapping real problems inside of games: scientific problems, social problems, economic problems, environmental problems. And through our games we are inventing new solutions to our most human challenges.”
-Jane McGonigal, Reality is Broken
Play has the capacity to possess meaning, convey information, and engage participants in ways very different from other forms of media, such as text, film, or music. Yet, play is often disregarded as being merely a diversion from other, more important tasks.
At Games to Gather we see a greater value in play. Granted, some games are intended as entertainment and nothing more, just like some books and movies. But this is no longer true of all games. Many games have the power to be enriching and draw attention to issues in a way other mediums could never do. These games – referred to as engagist games – have the potential to empower personal experiences and to speak against long-standing cultural narratives.
By providing an avenue for people to play engagist games, Games to Gather assists the community in challenging and subverting problematic or confining cultural narratives. By fostering practices that welcome people of all identities, backgrounds, and personal experiences (and especially to people who belong to groups who face marginalization), we invite new perspectives into our play, and thus, into our lives. Together these features allow our community to grow into a more inclusive and more understanding culture.
Games to Gather events are structured in a way that supports the interest of a wide community while fulfilling our vision of raising social awareness. This is accomplished through a number of different means.
- Play moving games. Games that explore a socially issue or illuminate a lived experience inspire empathy, understanding, and compassion among the players.
- Hosting specific events for groups that often face marginalization, such as womyn and lgtbqia*.
- Implementing socially equitable procedures at our public events.
- Offering activities at different levels of involvement. Some events and activities are more casual, while others are more serious. By offering these activities side by side, we hope that a new participant that begins at the more casual end of the spectrum will become interested in the other more serious activities as they make friends and participate in discussions.
- Contextualizing play experiences through “debriefing.” After a game or activity, players discuss their play experiences: how it made them feel, how it reflects on the player’s lived experiences, and how it causes the player to consider the lived experiences of others.
- Critical discussion and analysis. In group discussion we scrutinize game procedures for their expressive qualities and implicit statements found within their design.
- Focused game design. Game design events focus on the development of positive action games. Designing analog games – and freeform games in particular – require nothing more than pen, paper, and a personal experience to express.
- Supporting community partners in their efforts. Our community members often volunteer with other organizations with similar missions.