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Participatory Game Design for Life Skills in Rural India: A Multisite Case Study

Publication Type : Journal Article

Thematic Areas : Humanitarian-Robotics-HCI

Source : (2016)

Url :

Campus : Amritapuri

School : Center for Gender Equality and Women Empowerment, Department of Social Work

Center : Ammachi labs, Center for Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality

Department : Social Work

Year : 2016

Abstract : We present a game concept designed to teach life skills in rural India: Abhi Ya Kabhi (AYK, pronouncedah­BEE ya ka­BEE) meaning “If not now, then when?” This concept has been designed in a highlyparticipatory process with forty participants in five rural village sites across five states in India. Theconcept includes a light strategy game for people with low to middle general literacy, as well as low gameliteracy. The rural Indian population is mostly at or below the poverty line, and wrestles with multiple“wicked problems.” Our participatory model is designed to be contextually sensitive and maximallyproductive for the target communities. In our series of exploratory case studies, AYK has shown itself towork at two levels. Firstly, the activities train the players in decision making relating to moneymanagement, happiness and well­being. Then, the discussion activities around the game support theparticipants in identifying and defining the real­life problems they face, and reflecting constructively uponthem. As it occurs as part of a game, the feeling of ‘play’ enables more freedom for discussion than theoften rigid social norms village life typically allows; bringing people together across caste, gender, ageand economic divides. Indeed, our fieldwork team found AYK to be a surprisingly effective tool forcreating a relaxed yet purposeful rapport with villagers — more so than the more formal developmentprograms they also run.The participation model, described here in detail, goes beyond simple player feedback to activelyengaging with the participating communities that spur significant conversations within the village onsensitive social matters. Our main finding is that encouraging participation in game design and playmoves from a simple sense of getting players’ input, to supporting the community itself to come togetheraround key social issues. We bridge the related concepts of participatory design, as in the Scandinavianapproach to IT design and participatory development (from the field of social science and developmentwork in the developing world). Based on our observations from field testing AYK, we suggest four facetsof meaningfully engaging participants

Cite this Research Publication : S. Kongeseri, Sheshadri, S., Muir, A., Coley, C., and Rao R. Bhavani, “Participatory Game Design for Life Skills in Rural India: A Multisite Case Study”, 2016

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