The Potential of Gamification for Humanitarian Organizations to Support Integration in Migration Contexts

The Potential of Gamification for Humanitarian Organizations to Support Integration in Migration Contexts

Marvin Jammermann, Beybin Elvin Tunc
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-9223-6.ch018
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The aim of this chapter is to explore the connections between the inherent characteristics of gamification and the current need for sustainable integration activities that are based on meaningful social interactions. By highlighting the potential of gamification for creating democratic spaces of social interaction and engaging diverse actors in joyful encounters, it is possible to underline the notion of social change that gamification can induce. In the area of integration, humanitarian organizations can harness the potential of gamification in their integration activities in order to ensure increased social cohesion. Through a critical analysis of existing gamification and integration approaches, the chapter provides arguments for why gamification is perfectly suited to improve integration processes by highlighting the manifold applications of gamification experience in the humanitarian field.
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Games can be an effective tool to motivate people, based on its attractive play and fun elements. Besides being inherently fun-oriented, games are far more complex and include various elements that might have the potential to address pivotal social, political and economic issues in society (Stewart et al., 2013). Games´ ultimate purpose of having fun, its strong mechanics that encourages a continuous engagement and its elements that provide a safe-to-fail space can have a drastic impact on social processes by using people's motivation. This applies in particular to integration activities bringing together migrants and members of the host society.

This chapter will outline the inherent potential of games, and gamification more precisely, by highlighting that gamification offers valuable solutions to complex problems of current integration approaches. In this context, humanitarian organisations play a leading role when it comes to supporting integration efforts. It is their operations that could widely profit from applying gamification approaches to their integration activities. Games apply simple rules of equality as the rules are equal for everyone. In the beginning the materials are distributed equally, while the rest is the responsibility of the players. When playing games together, all the players agree on the conditions of winning, and, more importantly, everyone has equal chances to win. In this logic games already apply the notion of fairness between diverse actors that interact with each other, which is correlating with the principle of integration. People have already invested considerable time in entertainment and gaming, which can be used to make them aware of specific topics in society or to even change their perceptions on controversial issues. Games are on the search for meaning and constantly solve problems in a virtual world which can be used to solve certain challenges and to induce social change in the real world (Hassan & Leigh, 2021). Research shows that “[...] games-based approaches provide adaptable, motivating and engaging techniques that can be used to empower individuals and communities in ways that lead to social inclusion.” (Stewart et al., 2013, p. 11). In this context, games are defined as game-based joyful interactions between players, while gamification refers to the innovative application of typical game elements (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to non-game contexts such as integration. As such, gamification can be understood as a transformational practice itself, as the underlying idea strives to revolutionize certain fields and to change procedures making them more engaging and fun (Thibault & Hamari, 2021). Moreover, games and the mechanisms of gamification are perfectly equipped to support various groups in society as e.g. migrants to achieve certain education goals (Stewart et al., 2013). This crossroad between the potential for increased learning outcomes for members of society and the pursuit for enjoyment as transformational potential makes gamification a considerable tool for social change. Furthermore, unlike in life, in games everyone has the same starting point and moves according to their own choices. For certain groups in society life is often characterized by inequality, but games provide a space to gain the autonomy and responsibility of their responses towards circumstances. Games establish a feeling of equal opportunity and creates a convivial space to perform agency throughout the game. Either in front of a screen or at the table, players gain a new identity that they define with their own choices within the game and during the process of playing. When they finish playing a game, people turn back to the in-world reality. The magic circle is an arranged space for a certain duration of time. As Huizinga (1955) describes, the magic circle works like a door where players are passing through both in entering and leaving. It separates real and alternate worlds, as it separates ascribed and achieved identities. In this context, Nguyen (2017) claims “Inside the magic circle, players take on new roles, follow different rules, and actions have different meanings. Actions inside the magic circle do not have their usual consequences for the rest of life” (p. 2).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Cohesion: Strength of togetherness including the sense of belonging and trust as well as reciprocity between members of the society.

Social Change: Transformative action through interactions in order to challenge the existing status-quo.

Humanitarian Work: An action to facilitate equity for humans to be treated with dignity.

Migration: The movement of people over borders either willingly or compulsory.

Equality: A mutual agreement that every individual embraces the same natural value as human beings and holds the same rights being able to benefit from the same opportunities.

Diversity: Recognizing and accepting different social categories and together co-existing with differences.

Democracy: A decision-making process that provides space to hear minorities' voices despite the majority´s will.

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