Good practice books with non formal and gamified activities for NGOs to be used by other NGOs in their own inclusion and integration projects.

Citizentime good practice book

Gamification in citizent involvement

What is Gamification? (A simple question, no simple answers)

There are many definitions for Gamification, but probably the more encompassing one would be the one Gartner coined: “Gamification is the use of game mechanics and experience design to digitally engage and motivate people to achieve their goals.” This definition highlights gamification’s reliance on digital technology and the design of the user experience.

The key elements of this definition are:

  • Game mechanics as, for example, the use of elements such as points, badges and leaderboards that are common to many games.
  • Experience design describes the journey players take with elements such as game play, play space and story line.
  • Gamification is more often than not a method to digitally engage, rather than personally engage, meaning that players interact with computers, smartphones, wearable monitors or other digital devices, rather than engaging with a person (but it doesn’t always have to be the case)
  • The goal of gamification is to motivate people to change behaviors or develop skills, or to drive innovation.
  • Gamification focuses on enabling players to achieve their goals. When organizational / educational goals are aligned with player goals, the organization achieves its goals as a consequence of players achieving their goals.

    Gamification Techniques everyone can use

    Gamification is normally employed as a strategy to make user interfaces more engaging to achieve learning goals and promote cooperation, as an example. There are hundreds of different techniques, some of the most commonly used are listed below, but before you get started make sure of the following:

    Take the long view: Regardless of who or what you’re trying to gamify, it’s very important that you take the long view. It’s very easy to get people riled up, and in any group of people, there are going to be those that love competition and those that do not. One of the more important things to avoid when it comes to gamification for social good is going too deep too early.

    Make sure that whatever you do is appropriate for the audience and not going to be a one-size-fits-all type of program.

    Don’t overemphasize rewards: Thinking that people will only participate in your program if the rewards are big and flashy is a fallacy. The best gamification programs are about the experience itself (sometimes a competitive experience, others a collaborative one). Focusing on the rewards only often creates false incentives (people end up cutting corners and doing things you really don’t want them doing, just for the win).

    Level the playing field: Starting by clearly understanding what framework to use and share the rules, goals and expectations with everyone involved (you can even create those together, if the opportunity and the conditions are there). This helps everyone understand how the game works, what they have to do, and how to succeed. Of course, gamification in the social environment should preferably be about some larger goal and having the rules of the game out in the open helps everyone participate, regardless of who ends up winning or not.

    You’re all winners! This probably goes without saying, but when we talk about gamification, most of the times the competitive aspect is very strong, but even in the more competitive scenarios performance should be measured at least in part based on participation, let alone in projects of the cooperative kind. If 90% of your participants are fully engaged in your program (whatever it is), that’s a huge win, regardless if the top 10% are driving the majority of the results. Gamification in the context we are working is about the team, about every single participant.

    Where to start?

    The concepts we are sharing here may seem quite simple but one can easily get lost in the process. A game is most successful when there is a clear theme and goal, and when the game is designed to help the player achieve those goals. Picking the right style of game for the right case or issue is also important.

    1. Recognize the theme. Figure out the problem, cause, issue of interest.
    2. Figure out the GOAL. What is the point of the game? What would you like the players to be able to do upon completion of the game?
    3. Plan how to realize the goal you set through the game engine. Is it a simulation game? Trivia game? Strategy?
    1. Reward player understanding and knowledge acquisition.
    2. Know the audience. The players determine the course of the game you are developing and how successful that game is.

    Having a good framework makes the process a lot more manageable, easier to measure and to replicate in different countries / contexts. The framework we found to be more robust, complete while fairly easy to understand is the Octalysis tool, developed by the Gamification Expert Yu-Kai Chou.

    Chou regularly offers his Udemy courses on Gamification for free and they are extremely informative and clear.

  • Why does Gamification make sense in the Citizen Time project?

  • More than just gamification, this project is using the power of play to foster interconnectedness, to go back to the basics of what it means to be a human being, to use emotional tools that cause visceral and emotional reactions and connect to those who might seem different at first, but are so alike when we look closer. It’s the best place to see the other as just another part of ourselves. What better tools to promote empathy than to play music together, to be part of a theater play, to go back to that childlike place when we play an engaging game, either something physical, like football, a board game, or even a digital collaboration game online?
  • How could these experiences of play help?

    Jean-Michel Blottière, Co-President Games for Change Europe said it in the best possible way:

    We don’t pretend we can solve the extremely complex issues involved in two days. They will take far longer to understand and master. We don’t think videogames are a kind of “magic wand” to be waved at Immigration or Integration. We certainly don’t claim we are specialists in answering these questions. Instead, our plan was simply to bring together game designers, researchers, activists, artists and others who recognize the importance of the topic, experts who are willing to explore how video games can help. Two of the most important areas where video games have proven to be successful are to educate, and to tackle critical issues without preaching. Combine those strengths with a game’s proven ability to build self-esteem in players, and they seem a perfect way for exploring such an important and timely subject. Video games already offer extremely powerful alternative education models. Would it be possible to create games that would educate migrants and refugees who don’t speak the language of the country where they’ve just arrived, but who can master the universal language of video games? We wanted to see if it is feasible to create videogames that would help restore the self-esteem of people who have been deprived of their social position, their everyday way of life, and find themselves living in tents in mud pools or hiding in trucks; people who are trying to cross borders, most of the time without success, even losing loved ones in the attempt. We know video games can influence gamers for better or worse. Some of them merely strengthen “fixed mental attitudes,” reinforcing stereotypes about women and other cultures. Europe is made up of old countries, proud of their “identities.” But it should be possible to create videogames which could help French, English, German, Italian citizens to better understand “others,” “strangers,” “invaders.” Can video games assist in changing these “fixed mental attitudes” as well? We could add to this list many other topics ripe for exploration. Social entrepreneurship can offer the possibility of a meaningful and productive future for refugees who see no future at all. Videogames can restore pride in one’s traditions and culture. There are even more needs to be addressed such as getting “papers” please, and locating lost family members. Marie Gillespie told us how important cell phones are for refugees to get information about which border is open or closed; to alert coast guards when Zodiacs are about to sink; or to help sick people to explain, via translation tools, their symptoms. What will work? What won’t? We don’t know. Not yet. This was a beginning dialogue. The dialogue began. Where it goes after this is up to you. Au travail!

  • Some inspiration / examples

    So how can a game be used for social change or as behavior change tool? With Gamification the idea is that you take something as routine as vocabulary building, recycling, or exercise and turning it into something exciting. Let’s face it; some of the good habits we really want to and are trying to develop can be tedious. By turning these events into games, you can change these tasks into something exciting, and make it easier to learn or sustain a behavior too. It would be wonderful if we could ALWAYS have enough intrinsic motivation to change certain habits or states of mind without external aids like gamification, but while we work of those more permanent internal shifts, any help is welcome. Let’s look at a few brilliant examples of using gamification for social change.

  • Vermontivate online game is an annual challenge designed to help players of all ages and experience levels take meaningful action on climate change. You can play as an individual, or as a team member for a school, a community or workplace. You can “win” prizes by collecting points for completing an extensive array of suggested climate-friendly tasks, as well as being recognized for submitting photos or other sharing activities.

    World Peace Game The World Peace Foundation recognized children’s potential, and set out to educate them using a system called the World Peace Game. This game was developed almost twenty years ago and is a political simulation which takes up an entire classroom and typically involves the participation of at least twenty-five students. The game starts with each child, who has been chosen to represent a particular country, inheriting some form of conflict upon their country be it economic, political, resource related, and so on. The idea is that each child must then use their thinking skills and imagination to work out this problem in a peaceful way.

    GeoQ: Game Based Training Tool For First Responders GeoQ is a web-based, open source workflow and exploitation platform, which enables analysts to work with each other and first responders in a collaborative mapping environment.

    Freeric is a multiple-choice game that has you pick the definition to a word. The United Nations World Food Program owns and supports this web-based game. For each right answer, you donate ten grains of rice. The donated rice is then given to underprivileged countries. Not only are you learning definitions to words you didn’t know the existence of, you‘re donating rice to a hungry family.

    MOTOVATE is an app-supported incentive program for families and fleets to improve driver behavior and reduce distracted driving.

    Samaritan App The samaritan app reveals the story of unsheltered people whom you pass by daily. You can give towards critical needs and create lifelines of hope

    MaximusLife Raise money and awareness for good causes when you walk, run, workout, bike, do yoga, lose weight, drink water or any other activity based challenges you choose. Every check-in allows you to easily raise awareness, earn sponsored donations and enters you to win big prizes for your social good! Everyday you check-in to your challenge you earn points for rewards and earn entries to win rewards and experiences from our sponsors & celebrities.

    We365 What if everyone took one positive action, big or small, every day? We365 is a community of people making the world more awesome by accepting inspiring challenges that impact hundreds of causes. From the environment to human rights, We365 makes taking positive action and tracking your impact easy.

To help you get started

Even though the Octalysis Framework can be quite helpful, there are already a few ready-made, very good tools to assist you in taking those first steps, that are often the more challenging ones:

Classcraft is an amazing resource to use to gamify a learning environment like a classroom or a workshop

Quest to Learn (Q2L) is similar to Classcraft but aimed at students from middle to High School.

Quizziz Free self-paced quizzes to review, assess, and engage – easily integrates with Google Classroom too.

Gamification Badge Kit for you are looking for something simple to give that gamification feel, but ease into it slowly, you can download this free Gamification Badge Kit to recognize participants in your programs for their achievements, commitment, team work, etc. A blog about gamification, with lots of examples, free resources, webinars about how to use gamification

Games for Change Festival If you are interested in how serious games and gamification can be a tool to solve problems around the world, you will want to check out a festival designed to highlight the impact games can have across many different industries. Every year the Games for Change Festival showcases cutting edge games that target areas of concern in healthcare, environmental impact, research, human rights, economics, education and many other major issues.

Activity ideas, concepts and best practices


An activity similar to games nights that revolves around the theme of immigration and features games connected to that theme, including, but not limited to videogames, board games, VR experiences or Adventures where the idea is to step into an immigrant’s shoes in an immersive way. Because these games exist already and this isn’t a simple addition of game elements to already existing experiences, we normally refer to this type of activities as Game based learning.

There are a number of games that could be used and here we list only a few that we have played and know can be impactful and generate debate. All of the games listed here are free to play (the reason why games like Papers, Please are not included here).


The migrant trail The Migrant Trail is a single-player simulation game examining the life of migrants and border patrol agents on the U.S.-Mexico border as part of The Undocumented transmedia campaign (pairing the game up with The Undocumented documentary).

Cloudchasers Journey of Hope – Guide a trailblazing father and daughter team through the deadly deserts of a dystopian future.

Way WAY’s non-verbal gameplay is meant to elicit feelings of connection with random strangers from no particular part of the world. As players are unknowingly paired up with one another, they must adapt to gameplay changes while depending on a stranger to help them succeed and vice versa. This unique gameplay style is meant to spawn feelings of kinship and personal connection, which can be shared on a global message board on the game’s website.

Choosing my way , Choosing My Way is a video game where players decide how to respond to opportunities and challenges after resettlement in the United States. Players choose goals, collect resources, and respond to situations. The goals and situations change every time, so the game is never the same.

Syrian Journey A powerful game likened the Choose Your Own Adventure style that asks the questions: If you were fleeing Syria for Europe, what choices would you make for you and your family? Take our journey to understand the real dilemmas the refugees face. Along with this game, because it centers around empathy the activities that have been conducted included writing a journal from the perspective of a Syrian refugee. Prior to the game, other media are used, including the video clips like “What’s Happening in Syria?” These are followed by the question, “How many refugees have left Syria since the beginning of the war?” Next, students read through Bana Alabed’s Twitter feed. Alabed is a girl who, with her mother, fled Syria and regularly tweets about the refugee crisis. In the experiences described by some teachers who have used this game, they also asked participants to view videos on the I Am Syria website, answer questions, and create a Venn diagram comparing their lives to those of children in Syria. According to the teacher Matthew Farber, the participants were also required that their diagrams had at least eight differences and four similarities. When students play Syrian Journey, they take notes on the decisions and choices made, and describe the difficulties and challenges faced. As Syrian refugees, readers decide whether to deal with smugglers or to take a dangerous raft ride across the Mediterranean Sea. The culminating activity is a student journal that includes the country they are headed to and whether asylum was granted.

Immigration Nation To frame themes of immigration, try iCivics’ free game . Also play Parable of the Polygons, a playable blog post on the makeup of society.

Mission US: City of ImmigrantsIn the past several years, the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) has supported and funded digital games, including Mission US: City of Immigrants, a game about the immigrant experience. You play as Lena Brodsky, a Jewish immigrant in 1907 New York. It’s a great teaching tool as you quickly realize how difficult it can be to assimilate to a new country. The game includes an Educator Guide with lesson plans and primary sources.

The Waiting Game ProPublica and WYNC produced The Waiting Game, an online game designed to introduce users to the experiences of asylum seeks before, during, and after their attempts to make it to the United States.

The VR experiences

Carne y Arena

Carne y Arena premiered at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival as part of the official selection and was the first virtual reality project to ever be featured at the festival, written and directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu it immerses “viewers into the harsh life of an immigrant”. The experience is not available to the general public, but there’s plenty of information, videos and accounts of the experience that almost feel like we can experience it first-hand.

Limbo: a virtual experience of waiting for asylum

Limbo: a virtual experience of waiting for asylum What is it like to flee your home and start again in a new country? Asylum seekers live on £5 a day while they wait to hear whether they can stay in the UK. This exclusive Guardian virtual reality film allows you to experience how this period of limbo feels, waiting for a decision that will affect the rest of your life

Board Games

Maybe even, a more simple, less technology and more community centered board games event where participants could gather and play board games like:

The immigration Game According to the Game Designer ” The tiles for the The Immigration Game are all based on true stories collected from my personal experience as an immigrant, books, Internet blogs, and interviews conducted with friends, family members and neighbors about their immigration experience to the US. Research on how to share this experience is still on-going. The goal is to educate native born Americans about issues surrounding the process of immigration and the life of immigrants, especially cultural and identity issues that are often not spoken about in the news.”

Refugee Journeys is based on a simple “snakes and ladders” game concept – players move forward, backward, or miss turns based on the cards they draw or the spaces they land on. Cards include integration experiences of real refugees, drawn from academic research, news and media, and the game creator’s personal experiences. Examples are: “You are 65 years old. You want to learn English, but the topic is always about finding a job. Move back a space.” “You were sponsored to a rural area, where there is no bus transportation. You always have to ask for rides. Move back two spaces.” “Your child has made a friend at school. Move forward a space.” Players move through the game using an “Identity card” which details their country of origin, family background, housing situation, gender, and many other identity markers.

As they move through the game, their identity influences the path they take.

Forced to flee This is rather a simulation exercise, more than a board game, but it goes in the same direction and follows similar precepts. The goal is to work together in “family units”, making difficult decisions to maintain their supply of food, money, and health while securing their future post-conflict.

The idea would be to play these games, either individually – in the case of video games and VR – or collectively – with the boardgames and then discuss the experiences, the challenges, the struggles, the frustrations they encountered but also ideas and insights that might have come up during the play session.

Immersive play

Immersive theatre often uses game mechanics and techniques to induce a sense of agency in the participant. Site, specific, interactive, immersive forms of theatre help in getting

immersive” as defined by the concept of ‘immersive theatre’; to describe performance where the audience member is an active participant and experiences the piece from literally being inside it. This can include walking around the set, touching things and interacting with performers. In many immersive shows, the decisions that the audience members make have around the set, touching things and interacting with performers. In many immersive shows, the decisions that the audience members make have a bearing on the actions of the actors and the direction of the story. Consider questions of empathy. What kind of emotions will the audience be feeling? What kind of environment were they in before they entered the show? Are they stressed/anxious? How can we remedy this? Design decisions are frequently questioned throughout the process to check how they will impact the audience. Immersive theatre often includes elements of gamification. As with apps where users are rewarded for their time spent using them, gamification in theatre is often used to encourage audience participation and risk-taking. For example, renowned immersive theatre company Punchdrunk are known for their ‘one on one’ experiences, where an audience member finds themselves alone with an actor. Naturally exhilarating, fans of Punchdrunk will often spend their shows deliberately seeking these out and ‘collecting’ them like Easter eggs in video games.

Akin to this, multi-sensory techniques used in immersive theatre, such as Sensory Labyrinth Theatre add another deeper, more meaningful and more empathetic layer to these practices. This type of immersive theater was created by Iwan Brioc, Artistic Director of Theatr Cynefin, as an applied theatre methodology inspired by Enrique Vargas’s ‘Poetics of the Senses’. In this form of play, that relies greatly on game-like mechanics to enter the labyrinthine ways of human connections (as described by the Brioc himself on his website): “individual audience members journey alone through a darkened three-dimensional labyrinth and along the way encounter moments and meetings that provoke subconscious sensory memories (sensory portals) into which they are gently invited to fall. In accepting this invitation constructs such as time and space, me and you, the inner and the outer start to collapse. Framed for the audience as ‘theatre,’ this space also takes on the added dimensions of the aesthetic space – memory and imagination: so that consciousness and this conditioned process of construction we call ‘reality’ can become an observable phenomenon – observed by the ‘character’ of the traveller in the performance. One function of this technology is to support the emergence of ‘communitas’-the quality, first described by anthropologist Victor Turner, without which community is just a term to describe a group of people and not a feeling of

common humanity with a shared meaning within that group of people. Sensory Labyrinth Theatre has the capacity to bring about ‘communitas’, an unifying sense of meaning from having touched together the ineffable mystery of our being, undermining any cultural, religious or ethnic barriers that otherwise divide us.”

Mixed realities (when we mix everything up and shake it up a bit more)

Using game elements doesn’t necessarily mean that the experiences or projects created don’t have to be games, per se: There are some very interesting programs using tools like Storyboard That to create graphic novels, while others interview immigrant family members and publishing the interviews on StoryCorps, a podcasting site for oral histories. A good way to start is by reading this guide about Community Storytelling best practices and how to’s. These tools use storytelling as their core mechanics, which is commonly used in games as well, while not exclusive to games.

Other enthralling tools that can be used for immersion and gamelike scenarios are, for example, BreakoutEDU – To play, you figure out a series of puzzles that open a series of locks. As a result, participants are embodying the push and pull factors of immigration through the core mechanics of a breakout and escape game. Other tools can be used for creating location-based games using ARIS or TaleBlazer,. An example, just for you to get an idea around this topic is Jewish Time Jump, an ARIS location-based augmented reality game about the immigrant experience. Set in Greenwich Village, New York, in 1900, it is playable on a smartphone.

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