Video games that teach empathy

Video games that teach empathy

Placeholder while loading article actions

In the video game “Path Out”, the protagonist, Abdullah, is a 17-year-old Muslim man lost in the jungles of northern Syria in his country’s civil war. The game player must help him escape, avoid landmines and artillery, and help him get through the checkpoints controlled by insurgents, government forces, or religious extremists. If he dies, a video of the real Abdullah Karam, whose successful flight to independence in 2014 is the basis of the game, pops up in a corner of the screen and says, “Dude, you killed me!”

Path Out is one of the growing number of video games designed to create empathy among players. Karam, whose story was converted into a video game by Cosa Creations after settling in Austria, says he saw the empathy himself when he approached some of the young Israelis he played with at a music festival in Budapest.

Muslims and Jews have been “taught to hate and kill each other,” said Karam, now known as Jack Gutman. And yet at this music festival it was the Israelis who played Path Out, and they said, “I was sympathetic to my journey, so much so that they started crying and we hugged” and we “started talking about how we are” are all human beings and We don’t want wars and we just want to live in peace.

Games that try to generate empathy like Path Out are becoming popular. It includes “What Remains of Edith Finch”, where players explore the family history of the Finch home and try to find out why Edith is the only surviving member of her family. In “Good Me, My Love”, a Syrian immigrant named Noor must go to Europe, while her husband, Majd, stays behind in Syria and tries to guide her to safety through a messaging app. In “Hellblade: Sacrifice of Sensua”, the main character, a Celtic warrior named Senua, must save the soul of her dead lover but she has a mental illness and she hears the voice.

Matthew Farber, a professor of educational technology at the University of Northern Colorado and author of “Gaming SEL: Games as Transformative Two,” said: Social and emotional learning. ”

Five things to know about empathy

“Dragon Cancer,” about a couple who lost their son to cancer and the process of their grief, is used by the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Buffalo to help staff show more empathy for their patients.

“I have students [in my classes] Those who are crying and playing this game are so overwhelmed that they need to rest, ”said Karen Schreier, associate professor and director of the Games and Emerging Media Program at Marist College, who uses it to explain the game in class. Empathy

Playing games with other people helps us develop stronger “cognitive empathy”, which is the ability to see the world through someone else’s perspective – even if it doesn’t match our own, said Jane McGonagall, video game designer. She also authored a book, Reality Is Broken, which argues that playing games can improve people’s lives and solve real-world problems.

She referred to chess, in which you must look at the position of the pieces from your opponent’s point of view, constantly looking at the game board on the opposite side of the table.

“What is she thinking as the next move? What could be her strategy? You can’t just play the game out of your head. You have to go to the heads of other players as well, ”McGonigall said in an email. “We don’t usually think of it as sympathy, but it is. It’s about taking an active approach, which is one of the most basic skills in empathy. ”

She added, “For me, this is the real power of sports, because of that [neurological] Routes can be activated in any situation – not just by playing games. “

Research provides some basis for this idea. In a small study, researchers at the University of Wisconsin created a game based on Jamal Davis, a fictional black science student who experiences discrimination in his PhD program. The players took on the role of Jamal Davis and experienced what he gets because of his skin color. When the question was asked later, the players stated that they understood how he felt and could accept his point of view, indicating that they felt empathy.

In the second study, researchers divided 150 middle-schoolchildren into two groups and played an experimental game called “Crystals of Kyodor” for two weeks, specifically designed to teach empathy. The other half played a commercially available game called “The Tower” that did not target sympathy. Students were given functional magnetic resonance imaging of their brains before and after. Those who played Crystals showed an increase in areas related to empathetic accuracy – the ability to perceive another person’s emotional state. As well as more activity in brain circuits related to empathy and emotions. Researchers believe that games like Crystals can cause neural changes in less than six hours, at least in adolescents.

But, there is a misconception about empathy, said Farber, co-author of a 2017 working paper on the “limits and strengths of using digital games as empathy machines.”

Most people think that walking in someone’s shoes is an idea, and so if you play as the avatar of some neglected group, you will suddenly become sympathetic to your avatar and thus to that group. But empathy isn’t so much about being in someone’s shoes as it is about having the ability to project yourself on another, Farber said.

The character for which the player feels sympathy is sometimes not the character he is playing but another character in the game that may be nice to him. He refers to the game “Never Alone”, where the players are Nuna, who is on a “Heroes Journey” with a legendary Arctic fox who helps Nuna along the way and eventually sacrifices himself and dies (although he comes back to life). Farber said in a journal article that many players were more concerned about the fox’s fate than Nuna.

“If I trip and fall, I have no sympathy for myself. If I’m walking with someone and I see them traveling, I’ll think, ‘Oh my God, are you alright?’ “Because empathy is literally what it is: projecting oneself on others,” Farber said.

Some games generate empathy because players have emotions and they have agency in the game, meaning they can choose the effects that affect those around them in the game.

“Sometimes, do I order waffles or pancakes for dinner?” Farber said. “And then sometimes, it’s a really heavy decision and you have to think about it and the consequences of that decision. And that’s where sports can be really powerful drivers of sympathetic anxiety.

Empathy can arise not only for the characters in the game but also for those you are playing with. Schrier, who is also the author of “We the Gamers: How Games Teach Ethics and Civics”, studied the game “Way” many years ago in which people played anonymously and had to rely on each other to reach goals. The game lasted only 20 minutes but in the end, she found the players calling each other “my friends” and saying “we are friends now”.

Can a video game tell you if you’re depressed?

“We both care about playing together and sharing those goals that make you trust each other, which builds trust and intimacy very quickly,” she said, but Schreier noted that some games increase brutality and competitiveness.

Researchers need to figure out what might work in some cases and not in others, she said.

“There Are A game designed to incite hatred, ”Schreier said, asking players to punch a stereotyped representation of a Jew in one case or a person of color in another, or a woman who is a feminist. “These are games that I’m afraid to mention because I don’t think they deserve publicity or attention.”

Not everyone buys the idea that video games can make someone more empathetic.

Ian Bogost, director of program at Film and Media Studies and professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington in St. Louis, said emotions inspired by play can be incorporated into how someone behaves in the real world.

“People have a very deep, spiritual, emotional, social connection to the media forms and they are inherent in their perspectives. But beyond that, it’s all very confusing and complicated,” said Bogost, author of Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames. .

Others said that games that generate empathy increase curiosity more than anything else. For example, a game uses a virtual reality headset to take players through a refugee camp and show them how difficult life is there. Critics say the players only get a view of the camp from tourists and do not understand the feelings of loss and uncertainty about the future of real refugees.

“I wish these games would use different terms like‘ raising awareness ’instead of empathy games or games,” said Kishonna Gray, an associate professor of writing, oratory and digital studies at the university. Associate Professor at the Berkman Klein Center for the Internet and Society in Kentucky and Harvard.

She remembers playing the video game “Darfur Is Dying” about eight years ago, which won the Darfur Digital Activist Contest in 2006, sponsored by MTV’s unit to create a video game that would also be a tool for advocacy. Crisis in West Sudan. Gray thought, it’s a bold claim.

“Help stop the crisis in Darfur,” Gray said.

“There’s no way you can sit on a console and play a video game for five minutes and feel like you’re walking in the shoes of a dying person in Africa,” she said.

During the height of the Black Lives Matter protest, Gray said, some university researchers hired her as a gaming consultant to help them create a virtual reality video about how black youth experience policing. She told them to move on from the story. He said it would be the last moment in the life of a black boy who died at the hands of the police. She asked them what their goal was. He told her that he wanted people to be aware of the problems between black people and the police.

“Did they have to perform Black Death to emulate that experience?” She said. “They were well-intentioned, and it’s the same for most people who make these tools, but they all say the same thing: we need to see what happens to generate empathy.”

Yet, for many people, the right video games can give an emotional response that leaves them open to others.

Nicholas Fisher, a junior at Marist College and one of Schreier’s students, recently played a game called “Spiritfair,” in which players play the role of Stella, who travels around the world in a boat, picking up lost souls and helping them. With their deaths before allowing them to proceed. He said he’s been impressed by the game, mainly because the designers did a lot of research to force the spirits into authentic characters with relevant storylines.

For him, there was an old soul named Alice, who leaves the game after the player helps her build a house for her soul. Saying goodbye to her reminded him of how he felt when he lost his grandmother, which just happened.

“Anyone who has had to live with grandparents or have lived with them until the end of their lives can definitely resonate with it,” he said. “I don’t usually cry much during games, but sending her almost brought me to tears.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.