Many of us underestimate the power of games - the influence they have on our rationale and how they can help us decode complexity. Gamification is now being academically studied, with an almost 'scientific' approach, to help alter behaviour patterns. From frequent flyer miles to Farmville, gamification is deeply embedded in 21st Century culture (whether we realise it or not!).
Game designer Brenda Romero, seeks to use games as a tool to conceptualize real world problems. Using games as an engaged form of experiential learning she designs scenarios that allow players to immerse themselves in real world problems. For example, her latest game Cité Soleil is about life in a slum of Port au Prince, Haiti. It is two games with two different rule sets, two different groups of players and two different goals - BUT played on the SAME board with the same pieces at the same time. It seeks to highlight the power imbalance on both sides and the economic disparity it creates.
In my opinion, introducing such games as tools of education has the potential to bring an entirely new perspective about social issues to the next generation. Making student think about difficult choices when faced with social complexity can help instil a sense of priority and deeper understand. When confronted with these situations later on in life, they will take decisions with a greater degree of compassion and confidence.
It's never easy to get across the magnitude of complex tragedies — so when Brenda Romero's daughter came home from school asking about slavery, she did what she does for a living — she designed a game. She describes the surprising effectiveness of this game, and others, in helping the player really understand the story. In 2008, she began a design exercise that expanded into a series called “The Mechanic Is the Message” — analog (not video) games that use game mechanics, boards, pieces, and rules to help a player think through hard problems. Her game “The New World” was an attempt to explain U.S. slavery, and the experiences of the people caught in it, to her young daughter.