For the past 5 months I have been tasked with creating a game for learning purposes. This game was supposed to be about a topic of interest to me that is currently a hot topic in the Psych community. The topic I chose was Microaggression and this critical analysis that follows is based upon the game I came up with.

The Game: “Black In America” by Najahwan Goode/ CUNY York College

Learning Elements

This game is trying to teach the player about microaggression and its different forms. The game is trying to create a world that the player can relate to and an experience they can use in their rea life in the future. The main form of interaction the player has is through conversation with a NPC. This supports the learning objective because it is the closest one can get to talking to another person without actually talking to them. This game affects social and behavioral processes the most. The game attempts to socialize individuals to respond appropriately when faced with microaggressions. It essentially tries to shape social behavior.

Formal Elements

This game is single player and non-competitive. The game objective is to lead the most successful life possible within the parameters of the games environment. This supports the learning objective because this game is trying to improve real world outcomes, and if one can—to some extent—replicate their success in game in real life they would be achieving the learning objective. The rules of the game is that you must interact with the NPC and you must choose the most appropriate response to become successful in the game. This repetitive non-optional exposure to microaggressions can help shape the player’s behavior in actual situations which supports the learning objective. There are no resources that are acquired in the game that can be exchanged, although interactions in the game do determine the outcome.

Conflict in game is introduced with each new scenario the player is placed in. It is resolved at the conclusion of each scenario. It can escalate or deescalate depending on the responses of the player throughout each scenario. The game limits the player’s ability to act in unacceptable ways by limiting the player to generated answer choices instead of allowing the player to make up their own responses to the conversations they are in. this limits the fun for some player’s because they are not allowed to create their own choices, but this is made up for by how imaginative some of the choices available are and the different outcomes that are possible within the game. This limitations does however support the learning objective because it helps give the player a basis in which to reply in some situations. This kind of guideline makes it easier for an individual to understand the confines of microaggression. The game ends very similar to the game of life, when the player is an adult, with/without a family, a career, and a set plan for retirement.

Dramatic Elements

The main character is an African American male/female avatar, created by the player. Their motivation is the fact that they are forced to grow up in a world of microaggressions, and they are given a choice. They choose to thrive or fail at life. The avatar is the player’s window into a world that is either foreign, or all too familiar. They are tasked with doing the same thing they have to do in real life, decide who they want to become. The player is faced with scenarios with varying levels of microaggressive content. The player must develop and master the ability to recognize and respond to microaggressions in an appropriate manner. The fictional world is modern day America, 2016.

The premise is that the player is supposed to grow up and decide what they want to do with their life in a world propelled by microaggression. The story is a branching narrative guided by the player’s choices. Players choose how to react in situations and their reactions lead to different tracks for the story to follow. This game is playful in the same way Tell Your Own Story books are playful. The player can experiment with all kinds of responses to lead them in different imaginative outcomes, but at the heart of the dialogue the player can really learn how to grow as a person that deals with microaggressions on a regular basis.

The story provides opportunities for conflict by using different realistic microaggression comments/ attitudes. The player can choose to escalate or deescalate these situations how they see fit, but it is very possible for the player to play through the game without much tension at all. The game creates conflict in this same manner as well. It provides the space for issues to brew but waits for the player to decide whether any specific situation is an issue or not.

System Dynamics

The game has no physical objects that can be manipulated besides speech choices but it does include backgrounds of different locations like school, various work places, avatar homes’, precincts, etc. all the places one interacts with within their life within the states. The only behavior is communication through dialogue; a scenario occurs, player reacts, consequences unfold.

The aesthetics are there for visual effect entirely. The only dynamic aspect is the conversation, which drives the locations, and characters a player interacts with. The system informs the player that they are about to embark on a journey that can be aggressive and offensive at times. The player is informed of what microaggressions are, the different types of microaggressions, what domains the responses to the microaggressions are associated with, but the player is never informed about the origin, or the reason for these microaggressions. Their feedback from the system is in the form of the consequences of their choices. Good choices end with positive outcomes and possibilities. Bad choices have negative outcomes and limits the possibilities for the player to progress in a positive fashion—good job, happy family, etc.

Functionality, Completeness, & Balance

This game is not fully functional. The openness of the game is very limited and the array of choices are not the best as of yet. The game is complete. It has a clear message and tells a story a deliberate story.

The game is balanced. There is not one way to be successful, rather a specific tone of what to be done is key. The player has to learn when to react intensely to a situation and when to make light of what could have been a potentially serious situation. When the player learns the types of responses to make to different forms of microaggression they will do well, regardless of the specific paths they choose.

Fun and Accessibility

The game is engaging when one understands what the game represents. The elements of the game support the learning objective by not adding too much to that game that it distracts the player from what is most important. The game makes it feel as though any choice can be meaningful or frivolous and therefore the player should put thought into every choice they make. Given this nature all choices made in each scenario are meaningful. At times some of the scenarios are boring and do not resonate because of how covert the microaggression is. This artful display is important for the learning objective but takes away from the fun of the game sometimes.

This game is very easy to play. To figure out how to play does not take long. Players learn to play through in-game tutorials.

Hope you have enjoyed the last 14 or so weeks reading my blogs and following my progression learning how to program and design my own game. Thank you for your interest!

This entry was posted in Project 11 on by .

About Robert O. Duncan

I'm an Assistant Professor of Behavioral Sciences at City University of New York, with joint appointments in Neuroscience and Cognitive Neuroscience. I also have an appointment as a Visiting Scholar at New York University. My research interests include cognitive neuroscience, functional magnetic resonance imaging, glaucoma, neurodegenerative disorders, attention, learning, memory, educational technology, pedagogy, and developing games for education.

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