Our Paths: the impertinent G4C Migration Challenge submission

We have applied to the last Games for Change Challenge. The aim of this year’s competition was ‘to inspire the creation of a game that connects existing and migrant communities and emphasizes cultural integration’. We have not been selected but it was definitely a good exercise. We would like to share our submission here.

A two-sentence description of the concept 

“Our Paths” is an exploration of a common situation seen from three different perspectives. The player is invited to put himself in somebody else’s shoes: understand why another person is behaving, thinking, talking that way. It is about empathy. It is about how everyone frames reality according to his own cultural background.

“Our Paths” describes a dinner in a Chinese restaurant viewed from the point of views of (1)  a middle class family (enthusiast of exploring new cultures); (2) the Chinese owners of the business (not integrated immigrant family); (3) a working class family (the father lost his job because of the Chinese competition). The player is required to live the same moment three times. Each time, he will be a member of one of the three groups.

How is this game about migration, immigration and/or integration 

Every day people share moments together. It happens in schools, restaurants, offices or simply in the street. In every situation, different people react in different ways: everything can be read according to the personal cultural background, religious norms, ethical views… just to name some. The result is that every person perceives and interprets these shared moments with their own lenses and attitudes. The convergence (or not) of mutual understanding in a shared environment plays a big role in the one-to-one relationships  and, ultimately, in the social stratification. On the big picture, we see this in the effect of social congregation and segregation.

Humans tend to categorise to make sense of reality. This creates the definition of social groups based on, for instance, religious affiliation, ethnic origin or social conditions. These definitions are often simplified and full of stereotypes and bias that are used by people to encode something or identify somebody we cannot understand. We see this happening everyday. We judge somebody according to the way she dresses or the way he prays. We assume that this person ‘would’ behave that way because of the idea we have of them, and we behave accordingly. We assume things based on bias and we distance ourselves from others in order to protect our comfort zone. The result of this simplification is exclusion.

“Our Paths” explores an everyday context and reveals the thinking and the behaviours of opposite social parts that share the same moment. In each chapter, the player is part of a different social group. The aim is to understand why social parts engage that way (empathy) and to see the consequences of our daily choices (integration v exclusion). “Our Paths” aims to show that there is not a ‘Us and Them’ but there is a ‘We’ because, after all, we are all humans.

Intended audience

“Our Paths” is dedicated to young adults, from 20 to 35 years old, any gender. The intended target consumes a good amount of social media content and potentially reads online magazines and digital journals (especially through social media platforms). They are not gamers and they are more interested in the content more than in the game mechanics. This is why the game intends to be focused in telling a story and to be easy to play. Game mechanics are used for engagement.

The distribution ideally would be web embedded, easily shareable content that fits the rules of responsive design. We believe the format of the game (described in the next section) will allow to create a VR version with a very small budget. As it’s a short game, it could be played by visitors of exhibitions related to migrant communities.

Design concept

The game pictures a dinner in a Chinese restaurant from three points of view. It is a short exploration game in a similar format to the award-winner “Gone Home”. The player is required to live the same moment three times. Each time, he will be put in the shoes of a member of one of the three groups.

[ Chapter 1] A middle class, liberal family has dinner at their favourite local Chinese restaurant. The player impersonates the oldest son/daughter (23 yo). They are enthusiastic of trying new food and curious to discover new cultures. Although, it will be evident that there is a ‘us and them’ element. They manifestate sympathy rather than empathy. The father would not admit it but he would not like to have a Chinese son-in-law.

[Chapter 2] The Chinese family runs the restaurant. The father is an old style man that likes to keep the tradition in the family: regarding of their activities, everybody is required to help at the restaurant, including the 16 old daughter. She would like her to mainly speak Chinese but, growing up in another country, she feels more local than the rest of the family and she considers English her primary language. The player impersonates one of the Chinese owner siblings.

[Chapter 3] The working class family are having a walk. The father lost his job because – he has been told – of the Chinese competition. In the attempt of forgetting, he has a walk and when he passes in front of the Chinese restaurant he insults the owner (while the middle class family is having dinner). The player sees the situation from the eyes of the son/daughter.

The format of the game reflects the model of the story telling exploration where the character can observe the environment, interact with objects and talk to people. It is possible to complete each chapter in barely 5 minutes, but players interested in learning more about the background of each family will find more reading materials. For example, they could interact with the smartphone of the character (reading social media feed, text messages…) Using the phone will make clear what characters think regarding the situation, but they are not required to complete the game. As the intended audience of this game are not gamers, we don’t need to provide any difficult challenge. We only need to make sure people want to explore the story and learn about immigration.

How the design of the game might positively impact migrant and existing communities

At a high level, “Our Paths” wants to raise the social discussion about cultural relativism, ethics and social constructivism. The knowledge and the believes of a society are defined by the social interactions in the social group. This game wants to highlight the importance of the interactions between people and the necessity of creating a common fertile ground for the social parts to meet and dialogue. In this sense, “Our Paths” can be used in education institutions to explain social models and social theories. At every people level, “Our Paths” aims to make a point and to invite people to ask themselves why the other person is behaving in a certain way.

The ultimate goal is to change the way we look at each other and to limit uninformed judgements. This does not mean that we should allow every practice just because it is accepted in another or in our culture. It means that, whenever there is a disagreement, everybody should be able to expose its point of view with the aim of finding a common solution. This applies to all parties because the mutual understanding and the will of improving the society has to come from every side. A contagious and constant dialogue can be a good lead to the mutual integration.

We have chosen a Chinese restaurant to set this game because the “Chinese people are taking our jobs” speech is used in many countries of the world. However – if the budget allows – the game could be expanded with more short scenes. We could talk about Middle East refugees arriving in Germany nowadays, Pakistanis moving to London in the 50s, Italians arriving in New York at the beginning of last century… There a lot of possibilities and we could teach the history of different migrant communities, helping players to understand these situations are not new to our time.

We are happy to learn that G4C received 190 submissions from 31 countries. As reported by the organisers: ‘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’.

It would be nice reading other people’s ideas and inspire each other!