They’re game for social change: UNESCO MGIEP profiles The Gaming Challenge finalists

By their own admission, the past few months have been very intense for the two final teams of UNESCO MGIEP’s Gaming Challenge. As the teams look back on the process, they reflect on how it has been an educational process for them too

It’s not every day that one gets the opportunity to combine concepts of peace and sustainable development with the thrill and excitement of video games. That explains the enthusiastic response that UNESCO MGIEP received when it announced its unique gaming challenge earlier this year with an impressive 104 entries from 36 countries – including 32 inter-country collaborations.

After close scrutiny by the jury, the submissions by Italian studio We Are Müesli (in collaboration with independent game designers and developers Pietro Polsinelli and Daniele Giardini) and Hungarian studio Pocket Scientists have made the cut.

Standing (L-R):  Zoltán Bukovics (Buxy - program), Viktor Spitzmüller (Spici - design), Peter Nyester (Nyesi - producer), Antal Ruttmayer (Anti - pm), Gyula Havancsák (Jules - graphics), Krisztián Jámbor (EFT - program) squatting aka the bearded row :) (left to right): Adam Regenyi (Adam - design), János Gárdos (Flow - graphics)
Pocket Scientists (standing L-R): Zoltán Bukovics, Viktor Spitzmüller, Peter Nyester, Antal Ruttmayer, Gyula Havancsák, Krisztián Jámbor. (Squatting L-R): Adam Regenyi, János Gárdos and (above) Team We are Muesli with Pietro Polsinelli and Daniele Giardini

World Rescue, the game designed by Pocket Scientists connects the real and game world by a magical touch, making it possible to create a peaceful and balanced world as the player advances in the game by solving exciting puzzles and playing diverse action mini-games. The other final game is a life simulation about sustainable development where players match tiles representing human activities and resources to improve the universal well-being of a small, simulated world where solutions have consequences that matter.

“The challenge of creating a game that presents global issues such as the Sustainable Development Goals in an engaging yet educational manner has really defined this whole exercise,” says Claudia Molinari, who is part of the Italian team that created the prototype game Once Upon a Tile. “More often than not, these concepts are misunderstood or lost in translation,” she says.

To ensure that their prototype does not suffer such a fate, the team devoted a significant period of time to understanding the several interpretations of peace and sustainability. Along the way, the developers were guided by UNESCO MGIEP’s mentoring sessions and informative webinars. “We want to enable the players of our game to feel that they are ambassadors of our project; we want them to form a deeper connection, both with the game and the global challenges,” Claudia says.

The developers of World Rescue (the prototype created by the finalists from Hungary) reveal that they found it most challenging to create an interesting and educational prototype within a short period of time. “What we really want is to ensure that the learning happens in an ‘invisible’ manner; almost without the players of our game realising that they are also being educated,” says Adam Regenyi of the Hungarian team, adding that UNESCO MGIEP’s assistance was instrumental for his team’s progress.

That ‘subconscious’ learning, according to the teams, is the unparalleled advantage that video games offer as educational tools. “The impact that games can have is definitely a lot more substantial than that offered by any other media, even movies,” Regenyi says. “They are interactive and allow the feeling of participation and collaboration.”

Furthermore, Claudia says, “Games are an avant-garde tool as they capture people’s levels of attention and help them register information more effectively. This is especially useful as it truly is a global platform cutting across barriers of language and backgrounds.”
The two shortlisted prototypes are currently being assessed by the jury. The winning game will be recognised as a UNESCO MGIEP pilot game across global platforms.

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