You all know how much I am always trying to explore possibility to use videogames in educational settings, as a tool to improve participation, inclusion and learning.

I was very happy when I was asked by the European resource center SALTO Information and Participation, based in Estonia, to collect and describe a few practices of using videogames to foster one of the topic they work on: participation of young people.

In their website, they start from this definition:

participation is about the sustained engagement of young people in the decision-making process.

and we agreed that this can surely be (and it is, indeed) fostered by many different experiences – including some videogames – that are able to tackle different aspects of the engagement of young people in the decision-making process, which is participation. You can listen to Dan Moxon and Cristina Bacalso for further understanding the meaning of youth participation:

Videogames could actually be defined as an endless decision-making process, in which players are continually asked to take a lot of micro-decisions, often even without having much time to reflect and fully consider the context – think about many platform or shooter games, for instance.

We decided to focus on experiences that instead would give us at least a quick possibility to analyze the context, having in mind also a the wider participation concept, as contained in the Youth Participation Strategy:

Youth participation in democratic life is about individual young people and groups of young people having the right, the means, the space, the opportunity and, where necessary, the support to freely express their views, contribute to and influence societal decision-making on matters affecting them, and be active within the democratic and civic life of our communities.

With this in mind, I started looking around for interesting experiences, already knowing that I would include my ones too, as we agreed with SALTO PI staff. I already wrote about some in the Italian section of this blog.

Videogames and Participation: the Company of the Ring

Since there is no such thing as coincidence (“the universe is seldom so lazy“), I had been just made aware of a very interesting experience happened in Finland during the lockdown, using Minecraft.

Also I was very happy to learn that the mind and hands behind it was someone I have known for years, Panu Rasanen. Panu was a participant of the very first edition of my Dig-it Up! training course on digital youth work, back in 2015. Now he is an officer in Verke, one of the most influential sources of information and reflection regarding digital youth work in Europe.

I identified a few other practices, among which we selected another known face, Carmine Rodi Falanga, who is often using and analyzing videogames as educational tools in his activities and blog posts.

Once the Company of the Ring was formed, it was quite easy to agree about what to write, which elements to highlight and so on, and I am really happy with the results. I am also happy that I had the possibility to write an intro article, with some reflections about videogames and learning. There I tried to explain again why videogames are relevant as an educational tool, in this case to train and foster participation and skills needed to improve participation in young people.

My 2 (more) cents to show that digital youth work is not only about online spaces

When referring to digital youth work, or more in general to the digital transformation of youth work, many people think we are only focusing on using this or that platform to meet online and that’s it – and the only important thing is to choose the best platform available.

But we all know there’s much more to it, starting from the role of youth workers – which is still crucial. For this reason I loved the opportunity to practically show how they could use something which is usually kinda damned in the educational world: videogames. In our articles, we explained how to apply standard youth work methodologies to them, such as having a youth worker there, proposing and debriefing experiences with the groups.

You can read the different articles and download the whole presentation from SALTO PI Participation Pool website.