Serious Learning in Playful Roles: Socio-political games for education and social change


  • Negin Dahya York University


Educational practice is closely tied to social, cultural, and political economies (Brandt, 2003; de Castell & Jenson, 2004). As videogames dominate mass entertainment revenues (ESA, 2007), the production and play of videogames also influences society (de Castell & Jenson, 2004). New media forge new relationships between learners and teachers, creating tension between student attention and the focus of teachers’ limited time (McLuhan, 1959/2003; de Castell & Jenson, 2004). Today, 88% of parents with children between the ages of 6 and seventeen state that their children play videogames from once a month to every day (ESA, 2007). Of the commercial game market, “serious” games include educational games, games for military training, games for social change, and more. The serious games discussed in this paper attempt to ‘persuade’ the player toward a particular perspective through play. Each game addresses a social or political topic considered ‘serious’ by widely accepted social standards such as war, poverty, abuse, and homelessness. For the sake of brevity, I will use the term “serious games” throughout this paper to refer specifically to the kind of serious socio-political games just described, which have the intention of educating game players on a social or political topic, or that hope to influence social change.






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