It is exciting to hear how successful “Games for Change” in one region can inspire others across different borders, languages, cultures, and themes. We recently spent some time talking to Suzanna Samstag, the head of the Games for Change Korea Chapter. We discussed her work with the Korean Government and commercial companies, particularly around two large-scale projects: “Adventures in Law Land” and “Planet Nanu”.
Suzanna Samstag and Games for Change Korea
Together with the Korean Ministry of Justice, Suzanna is hard at work on “Adventures in Law Land”, a new series of games that will help engage the Korean public in understanding their legal system. This project is not the first of its kind for the Ministry. In an effort to improve public perception, Chief Prosecutor Lee Doo-sik and members of his team created “Tell Me About The Law”, a successful application that was downloaded over 100,000 times to help citizens get familiar with the laws that affect them everyday.
Suzanna knew that another traditional pamphlet would not encourage Korea’s youth to learn about the law. While working with The Ministry of Justice, Suzanna called upon the inspiration she gained from watching Honorable Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor speak at the Games for Change Festival and showed Lee and his team O’Connor’s project “iCivics”. They were immediately impressed and began laying down the groundwork for their own creation: “Adventures in Law Land”.
Building Law Land
Players lead an entire family who is being relocated to the new “I Love Law Cyberland”. This online theme park experience (inspired by a trip Lee took to Disney World), invites players to explore the land as different members of the family. The family-based context is an important story-telling element in Korean culture and the game makes use of each character by targeting different tasks and learning environments that are relevant to each one of them.
Law Land is split into four different villages. The “Game Village” focuses on games that relate to civil responsibility, public order and understanding law-abiding behavior. Understanding the different roles and responsibilities of major organizations like the National Assembly, the court system, and prosecution system are taught in the “Simulation Village”. The “Video Village” offers fun and easy ways to learn about various legal principles while “Information Village” provides public service notices, law and order documents, and cartoons. Mini-games through the villages are also tailored to which character you control giving players the needed context.
The Ministry of Justice truly believes in this project and the importance of this game could best be summed up by a statement issued by the Ministry,
“The Republic of Korea, which gained independence after World War II, was one of the poorest countries in the world. But in just half a century, Korea achieved rapid economic growth, and in 2010 Korea was the proud host of the G20 Summit. According The Economist’s Democracy Index, Korea was ranked as the number one democratic state among all Asian countries and was assessed as being a fully democratic state. If social norms and law-abiding behavior is to take root, Korea will join the ranks of advanced countries. In this regard, the role of ‘Adventures in Law Land’ will be critical.”
A trip to Planet Nanu
The other government-funded title Suzanna Samstag is working on is “Planet Nanu”. This is a multi-million project that is executed by one of Korea’s leading commercial companies, JC Entertainment Corp.
Inspired by “Peace Maker”, a game that focused on the Israeli-Plaestinian conflict, Planet Nanu promotes understanding between South and North Korea. The game’s story evolves around two space explorers who get separated from one another, and must be united through a series of thoughtful puzzles, trials, and dangerous adventures with a unique cast of characters. However, Planet Nanu’s complexity comes from the metaphorical statements it makes regarding the Korean conflict. Throughout the game, players have the chance to solve puzzles in multiple ways, there is no one answer. This idea was core to the game’s message as the designers wanted players to feel that any conflict, no matter how difficult, doesn’t have to have one solution and that both sides should seek to experiment, compromise, and come up with a resolution that would be most meaningful at that time.
The team behind Planet Nanu took deliberate steps to create a game that was not only sensitive to the laws in Korea (that prohibit positive portrayals of certain regions of the country) but also tells the story in a way that is applicable to any other place in the world. The clever use of whimsical allegory allowed the designers to confidently tell a tale that would resonate with Koreans or anyone who is looking to solve a conflict between two opposing and separate sides.