Publication Type:

Journal Article





We present a game concept designed to teach life skills in rural India: Abhi Ya Kabhi (AYK, pronounced
ah­BEE ya ka­BEE) meaning “If not now, then when?” This concept has been designed in a highly
participatory process with forty participants in five rural village sites across five states in India. The
concept includes a light strategy game for people with low to middle general literacy, as well as low game
literacy. 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 maximally
productive for the target communities. In our series of exploratory case studies, AYK has shown itself to
work at two levels. Firstly, the activities train the players in decision making relating to money
management, happiness and well­being. Then, the discussion activities around the game support the
participants in identifying and defining the real­life problems they face, and reflecting constructively upon
them. As it occurs as part of a game, the feeling of ‘play’ enables more freedom for discussion than the
often rigid social norms village life typically allows; bringing people together across caste, gender, age
and economic divides. Indeed, our fieldwork team found AYK to be a surprisingly effective tool for
creating a relaxed yet purposeful rapport with villagers — more so than the more formal development
programs they also run.
The participation model, described here in detail, goes beyond simple player feedback to actively
engaging with the participating communities that spur significant conversations within the village on
sensitive social matters. Our main finding is that encouraging participation in game design and play
moves from a simple sense of getting players’ input, to supporting the community itself to come together
around key social issues. We bridge the related concepts of participatory design, as in the Scandinavian
approach to IT design and participatory development (from the field of social science and development
work in the developing world). Based on our observations from field testing AYK, we suggest four facets
of 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.