Through the successful use of digital technologies, extremist organisations have adapted their content, form and marketing techniques to reach young people, oftentimes in a seemingly harmless package. Online gaming has given an unexpected boost to extremist enterprises, as a number of terrorist and extremist organisations have managed to create their own games or ‘occupy’ gaming platforms.
Civic education is struggling to keep up with this development and finds it difficult to compete with the level of digitization and ‘fun’. In addition, digital technologies are instrumentalised to polarize while messages are amplified by social media algorithms on platforms that thrive on hate.
Young people are both the preferred target of extremist recruiting, but can also be the most resistant force against polarizing efforts, not least in light of the ease to relate to other youth in Europe or elsewhere. This potential, however, is currently hardly exploited for addressing concrete political engagement, mostly due to aged tools and approaches in civic education and the limits of the formal educational sector. Furthermore, disadvantaged youth are not sufficiently offered equal chances to a proper voice and participation, unless specifically targeted as objects of ‘prevention’ or ‘deradicalisation’, which bears the risk of stigmatization.
The GameD project wants to overcome these issues. It aims to develop an innovative game focused on democratic citizenship in the face of extremist and polarizing efforts, reaches out to civil society by rolling out the game to youth workers and pedagogues, and involves young people in its development.
Our objectives are:
Enable youth to recognize and counteract extremist and populist narratives
Enable youth to co-create a game
Increase knowledge and skills to deal with different cultures and backgrounds
Develop common visions of togetherness in the context of globalization and diversity
Empower youth with regard to their political and social participation based on a healthy understanding of democracy, critical thinking and media literacy and recognizing new avenues for civic engagement outside radicalism and extremism
Provide innovative tools for youth work and thus increase the reach and impact of youth work
Train youth workers in online and offline practices related to gaming in the context of promoting tolerance and being on top of digital transformations
The project’s overall result will be the production of an interactive game throughout a participatory development process. This product is expected to substantially innovate the approaches of youth workers to extremism prevention and promoting human rights by providing them a digital product and methodology which is more attractive for their target group, i.e. youth. Not only are video games more in line with the contemporary needs of today’s youth, but the entire game development will use participatory approaches in the context of digital methodologies: young participants will co-create the storylines and design of the game.
Moreover, the video game is also an innovative approach for providing a more attractive training programme to youth workers, in comparison to traditional trainings and methods. By doing so, the project is also expected to contribute to the integration of new, digital methods into the daily activities of youth workers, thereby helping organisations to create a more modern, dynamic and professional environment.
The concept of this project combines practice, research and policy to develop an evidence-based, innovative digital product that is attractive to youth education. It combines research on extremism and gamification, current trends among young people in relation to the digital world and youth workers' experiences in a video game.
This can be directly integrated into the working and pedagogical framework of the participating youth organisations, as they are freely available and include concrete guidance on how to use it.
The project is expected to have a long-lasting, sustainable impact on European youth and youth work, including stakeholders, to improve their situation and promote participation through the interactive development, training, transfer and dissemination of an innovative online game, including training manuals.