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Friday, June 9 • 4:50pm - 5:10pm
Designing 'Belonging' and 'Compassion' in Games

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What is the future of empathy, compassion, and belonging in games? Previous studies have found that 83% of online game players have experience harassment or toxicity in online games (ADL 2021). On the other hand, that same study cited that over 99% of online game players experienced prosocial interactions like friendship and mentorship in gaming. How do we reduce biases and other obstacles to ensuring that everyone feels included, valued, and cared for in the game worlds we create?

Based on a literature review, I have identified five initial design principles that may help in shaping a more inclusive, caring game world. One, game creators need to provide appropriate and caring moderation that enables players to be emotionally vulnerable (FairPlay Alliance Framework (2020); Yu (2021), Rusch (2017), Isbister (2016)). Two, game creators need to provide opportunities for players to express themselves fully and authentically (Yee & Bailenson (2007), Szolin, et al, (2021); Praetorius, A. S. & Görlich, D. (2020); Wood & Szymanski (2020)). Three, games should involve the player in solving problems and evaluating others’ arguments on solutions, with mindfulness toward the differences between accurate information and opinions (Hilliard (2016); Schrier (2016), Noroozi & Dehghanzadeh (2021)). Four, games should have carefully designed opportunities for perspective-taking and perspective-sharing, which do not inadvertently propagate biases (Schrier (2019); Nakamura (2002), Nario-Redmond, M. R., Gospodinov, D., & Cobb, A. (2017), Pozo, T (2018)). Five, players should be able to share their own unique stories, while engaging in cultural humility. Players need to be able to acknowledge others’ lived past experiences as a way of building a better future (Shliakhovchuk & Muñoz (2020), Pimental, et al (2020), Hook, et al (2013), LaPensée, (2021)).

In this talk, I plan to use these five principles to critically analyze two games that I have helped create, while also critiquing the broader use of ‘empathy games.’ First, I want to evaluate a digital game created for the World Health Organization (WHO) to support proper hand hygiene. This game focuses on ensuring that players understand the right moments to engage in hand hygiene during clinical practice. It has players play the role of a nurse or doctor and also encourages practicing compassion and care toward patients. The second game is for a Templeton World Charities grant and is being developed with the Virtual Human Computer Interaction Lab (VHCIL) at Lagos Business School in Lagos, Nigeria. This Virtual Reality (VR) game’s aim is to enhance empathy and compassion among youth from different ethnic groups in Nigeria. The game takes place in Nigeria and tells a story of a Hausa youth and her father, and the severe discrimination they face.

Based on my critique of and reflection on these two games, I will also share further recommendations for investigating, designing, and using games for inclusion, compassion, and empathy.

avatar for Kat Schrier

Kat Schrier

Associate Professor/Director of Games, Marist College
Dr. Kat (Karen) Schrier is an Associate Professor and Director of Games & Emerging Media at Marist College. She also served as a Belfer Fellow for ADL's Center for Technology & Society, where she supported research and design work related to games, empathy, inclusion, and bias reduction... Read More →

Friday June 9, 2023 4:50pm - 5:10pm EDT
Main 212