We are thrilled to announce the winner of the Games for Change (G4C) Migration Design Challenge, an initiative presented by The Richard Lounsbery Foundation and in partnership with the Migration Policy Institute. The Migration Design Challenge aims to inspire the creation of a game that connects existing and migrant communities and emphasizes cultural integration.
The winner of the challenge’s $10,000 grand prize is Next Stop: Weichenbach, a game concept submitted by German design studio planpolitik. Next Stop was selected for its relevance to the pressing public policy issue of refugee integration, impact goals, and gameplay — the simulation game places the player in the shoes of a range of characters to foster empathy from multiple viewpoints. Additionally, the well-defined game system — inspired by face-to-face training simulations — is suited and designed for classroom/in-school use, demonstrating that the context of use was considered in the design.
“Around the world, debates about the integration of immigrants and refugees are taking place in the media, classrooms, the justice system, political rallies, and even pop culture,” said Migration Policy Institute Senior Policy Analyst Jeanne Batalova. “The most appealing feature of the Next Stop: Weichenbach game concept was its practical approach to addressing a real-life issue: How to ensure newcomers’ integration while acknowledging the legitimacy of different stakeholders’ views and interests?”
Earlier this year, the Migration Design Challenge asked game designers how can a game help people understand and work through concerns over perceived job competition? How can a game experience emphasize community engagement to help migrants and their neighbors improve their understanding of each others’ cultures?
G4C received 190 submissions from 31 countries, including multiple submissions from Belarus and Kazakhstan; dozens of entries from the UK, US, and Latin America; and individual submissions from countries such as Croatia, Azerbaijan, Lithuania, and Slovenia. Many submissions highlighted the struggles of immigrant journeys and sought to highlight the inequities immigrants can face. Some depicted highly personal experiences and reflected concerns, fears, and hopes for the future. A number of gameplay formats were proposed, but most were simulation adventure games, depicting a multitude of global viewpoints. Most submissions (126 out of 190) were from people who had no prior experience working on migration policy or issues.
Since 2012, G4C has organized game design challenges around a wide range of topics, including nuclear threat reduction, reproductive health, and space exploration. This year the focus was on immigrant integration, sponsored by The Richard Lounsbery Foundation. The Migration Policy Institute was invited to be the subject matter expert. The 190 submissions received in the Migration Design Challenge represented the second highest number of the eight challenges that G4C has run to date and well above the average number of 75 submissions received. Challenges that ask for only game concepts generally receive higher submissions than the ones that require developers send a prototype.
A panel of game designer judges and subject matter experts from the Migration Policy Institute selected one winner, who will receive a $10,000 prize to support further development of their game, and four honorary finalists who will receive complementary tickets to the Games for Change Festival.
WINNING GAME DESIGN CONCEPT
Next Stop: Weichenbach (planpolitik)
A multiplayer, browser-based simulation game that allows up to 35 players to take over the roles of fictitious municipal decision makers and other stakeholders to negotiate an intriguing scenario about the integration of newly arriving refugees. The game aims at fostering empathy as well as creating awareness about the legitimate interests of all groups involved. Teachers moderate the experience in the classroom or through online portal, and students engage in discussions from various viewpoints to understand needs and concerns of all sides.
Below are details on the four finalists selected for honorable mention.
Welcome Home (ELF Experience)
Honorable Mention: Best Representation of Theme
An open-ended game styled after The Sims creates a lively, diverse building community and invites players to expand knowledge about immigrant groups; explore the challenges and opportunities presented by immigrant integration; and recognize the importance of diversity and integration to the overall community’s well-being.
Robolandia (Alexander Cooney)
Honorable Mention: Most Imaginative Gameplay
Players experience immigration first-hand by creating both native and immigrant avatars and controlling their characters’ life decisions over the course of three simulated weeks.
By abstracting people as whimsical robots, and by substituting real communities with a fictional, prosperous island filled with opportunity, players will be able to engage in meaningful dialogue with the underlying social, economic, and residential tensions and opportunities created by immigration without becoming distracted or biased by their real-life manifestations.
Tapestry (Team Kaizen)
Honorable Mention: Best Mechanics as Message
A real-time strategy game that helps players understand the cultural backgrounds of both natives and immigrants in a community.
The player would have to build cultural bridges between all the various peoples so when stressors such as societal/political turmoil come along, the strength of their community tapestry (with each community member being a metaphorical ‘thread’) would be tested. The end goal is to instill behaviors in the player that involve celebrating differences while unifying and finding strength in love and community.
Stand on my Blanket (Natasha Boskic)
Honorable Mention: Best Innovation & Player Engagement
Based on the blanket exercise, this mobile-phone game will encourage players to explore unfamiliar places in their city and interact asynchronously with prior and future participants. By completing a set of tasks intended to help them connect with each other and the wider community, players will hear each other’s narratives and work on issues together. The game enables participants to walk through the process of social unrest, forced displacement, migration out of the country of origin, struggles on the journey, and adaptation in a new country.