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Video games to educate and raise awareness about the refugee crisis

A study by UPV postdoctoral researcher Elena Shliakhovchuk shows how video games can help inform people about pressing global issues, change attitudes and foster empathy towards refugees.

[ 21/06/2024 ]

Video games are more than a platform for leisure, fun and entertainment. They are a perfect tool to educate, raise awareness and increase engagement on social issues such as the refugee crisis. This is confirmed by a study led by Elena Shliakhovchuk, a researcher at the Universitat Politècnica de València, whose findings have been published in the International Journal of Computer Games Technology and Information Technologies and Learning Tools.

In her study, the researcher analysed three games: "Papers, Please", a puzzle and simulation game described by the developer as a "dystopian documentary thriller" that immerses the player in a debate about the immigrant and refugee population; "Against All Odds", a role-playing video game developed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to educate and promote a better understanding of the realities and dangers faced by refugees and the reasons for their displacement; and "Survival", a game for Android and iOS that addresses the reality of migration, developed with the help of young Spaniards and migrants and refugees of 11 nationalities and with the support of the PeaceApp programme of the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations.

As Elena Shliakhovchuk explains, the three video games were designed to raise ethical awareness, arouse emotions and moral commitment in the player, make people see things from the refugees' point of view, change their perceptions and encourage them to act in real life.

In her study, Elena Shliakhovchuk analysed the reactions and behaviours of a total of 176 participants. The conclusions were unanimous: "Participants reported that they had enjoyed the gaming experience, felt a renewed interest in the issue and, most importantly, experienced greater empathy towards refugees, feeling more motivated to help refugees," says Elena Shliakhovchuk.

The work shows that by putting players in the refugee's shoes, video games can make learning about these issues more engaging and thus attract more attention in society, including non-gamers and people previously uninterested in the topic.

"These findings confirm the potential of video games as a possible tool to engage educational environments, address social problems, raise awareness and promote empathy. The study demonstrates that through immersive experiences, video games can help educate people about pressing global issues, change attitudes, reduce denial and foster empathy towards refugees," concludes Elena Shliakhovchuk.

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