Game based empowerment

Game based empowerment, our own derivative of the term 'Game based learning', goes beyond simply applying gamification or integrating game methods to 'liven up' a learning process. In addition to creating a more effective and therefore more sustainable learning experience, gameWise aims first and foremost to empower young people through play.

Learning and empowerment through games

Our games lower thresholds and open up the opportunity of entering into dialogue with young people on social themes. By means of games, we are able to connect more closely to the young people’s world and appeal to their intrinsic motivation, which has a remarkable positive effect on their learning experience. Choosing to apply certain themes through play increases not only the substantive knowledge about that theme, but also makes it discussable. In this way we want to strengthen people not only in their knowledge and skills but also create space for young people to feel safe and grow (further) in self-reliance and active citizenship.

What is empowerment?

Empowerment is a process of strengthening of individuals, organisations and communities. They try to get a grip on their situation and environment through control, critical thinking and participation (Fililp Coussée, 2011).
uses games to contribute to this process of empowerment and to create a sustainable learning effect. This means that we want to empower young people so that they can participate critically and self consciously in society.

Judi Camberlin (1944-2010), leading lady in activism for mental health care and training director of the American National Empowerment Centre, defines in her work ‘A working definition of empowerment’ (1997) 15 qualities that must be deployed in order to be able to speak of empowerment. Chamberlin worked with patients in mental health care but these qualities are also indispensable for young people in today’s society.

  1. Having decision-making power. Young people are considered competent to make their own decisions and are also given the freedom to do so.
  2. Having access to information and re-sources. In order to make informed decisions, young people need to be able to inform themselves.
  3. Having a range of options from which to make choices (not justyes/no, either/or). Meaningful choices can only be made when a wide range of options are available.
  4. Assertiveness. Be able to stand up for yourself, develop your own wishes and expectations and get the space to express them.
  5. A feeling that the individual can make a difference. A hopeful image of the future gives the feeling that change is possible.
  6. Learning to think critically; unlearning the conditioning; seeing things differently; making space for everyone’s own story, not treating young people as ‘a case’ gives them a feeling of capability. Automatism changes into thoughtful choice.
  7. Learning to recognise and express anger. Being able to be angry in a safe way and within certain limits.
  8. Not feeling alone; feeling part of a group. Feeling connected with others, making progress together.
  9. Understanding that people have rights. Being aware of their rights gives young people a more confident and stronger feeling.
  10. Effecting change in one’s life and one's community.Empowerment is more than just a feeling. When someone really brings about change and in his or her life or environment, a sense of control is created.
  11. Learning skills (e.g., communica-tion) that the individual defines as important. The motivation to learn is higher when young people are able to decide for themselves what is important and do not only have to learn what is imposed from above.
  12. Changing others’ perceptions of one’s competency and capacity to act. Young people who determine their own needs and act accordingly can blur stereotyped thinking patterns in others and earn their respect.
  13. Coming out of the closet. All possible topics can be discussed, nothing is taboo. The term is taken from the LGBTQ+ scene to show that daring to show one’s own identity is good for self-confidence.
  14. Growth and change that is neverending and self-initiated. Empowerment is not a goal but a process. There is no end point after which further growth is no longer necessary.
  15. Increasing one’s positive self-imageand overcoming stigma. Empowered young people have more self-confidence and feel more capable. As a result, they take more control of their lives and their self-image will grow again

gameWise creates an open atmosphere during all its activities and strives to strengthen these qualities among young people. Game based empowerment aims to increase the self confidence and autonomy of young people through game and digital tools.

Increase motivation through Self-Determination Theory

Empowerment is based on the premise that everyone has the opportunity to learn, grow and change. The strengths and competences are already present but must be given the opportunity to express themselves ‘Filip Coussée, 2011).

If we really want to get something going and focus on long-term learning effect, then motivation is incredibly important. Only when they are motivated to learn, room for new knowledge, skills and insights will be there. Games in themselves can motivate young people. We are talking about extrinsic motivation, something from the outside motivates young people to learn. However our Serious Urban Games® are constructed in such a way that they also appeal to the intrinsic motivation of young people. By actively involving young people in the development of our offer, our themes and approach connect to their world. This not only makes the content recognisable and relevant but also results in games that young people really like to play.

When we work with young people, we always start from the Self-Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985), which states that a human being has three innate basic needs that must be satisfied in order to achieve optimal functioning, well-being and growth. The three basic psychological needs that are distinguished in the SDT -- and which are seperate from the basic physiological needs -- are also referred to as the ABC of psychological development:

  1. Autonomy: freedom (of choice) and sense of self-determination
  2. Belongingness: belonging, connection, interaction with others
  3. Competence: mastery, experiencing success, trying to control the result

gameWise makes games for young people, with young people. Together with them we investigate what is relevant and important within a certain theme [Autonomy]. In this way we can work in the zone of the immediate development (Lev Vygotsky) and maintain the balance between the existing living environment of the young person and the widening of horizons that we want to achieve, because our games also want to provide young people with new insights and skills that lead to greater empowerment [Competence].
Not only empowerment of the individual is important, but also that the right circumstances are created for this. Empowerment is just as much about interaction and reinforcing connections between the individual and the group (Filip Coussée, 2011). This is why gameWise wants to use its games to bring young people closer together and close to the gap with teachers and supervisors, services and organisations, institutions and policy [Belongingness]