How might we … use games to foster empathy?

January 23, 2019

This week we invited world-renowned games designer Brenda Romero to speak on the ‘emotional power of games in education’. Her talk was in equal measure provocative and impassioned. Romero designs games, both digital and analogue, and gave examples of the latter that tackle what she describes as ‘difficult subjects’, which powerfully emerge from her family history, heritage and culture. Check out her earlier TEDX talk here for the crux of her approach – and for those who want the fuller immersion, the film of the full talk will be online shortly.

Image © The Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Romero is serious about play in just the same way that we are in our FuturePlan project for the Museum of Childhood (MoC). Both Romero’s practice and our designerly approach to MoC FuturePlan illuminate the role of empathy in play. Romero does this by designing games that ask players to understand the impact of their decisions on others – an experience that deliberately inculcates a sense of disruption and discomfort. At the heart of her approach is the role of empathy, a way of gaining insight into the experiences and perspectives of others. MoC FuturePlan’s co-design approach likewise throws open the process of designing the new museum to enable a more embedded and responsive design that has the needs and dreams of audiences at its core, to create a museum that can be the centre of communities.

In this we aim to be seriously playful – opening up spaces for experimentation and fostering empathy throughout. We’re interested to learn about museums globally that are likewise experimenting with people-centred approaches to capital projects with a view to convening a seminar in early 2020 to bring together practitioners and thinkers.  Do please get in touch if you have ideas for contributors or case studies – and if you are serious about play, come to our Videogames conference Parallel Worlds on Friday 25 Jan to join the conversation with gamers, theme park designers and escape-room creators.

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