In migrants’ shoes. A game to raise awareness and support long-lasting learning

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Francesca Antonacci
Maresa Bertolo
Ilaria Mariani


This contribution looks at the game as a technology for communicating, sharing and learning. It poses a specific focus on the play activity as a means to address cultural integration, presenting the analysis and research outcomes gleaned enquiring the persuasive urban game AHW (full name removed for blind peer review) and its application to a group of adolescents who manifested hostile feelings towards foreigners. The game intends to immerse players into awkward situations to problematise and modify their former mindset, prejudices and biases towards migrants, fostering effective learning outcomes able to affect behaviours and increase empathy. The enquiry is an action research conducted via pre- and post-experience qualitative questionnaires, short interviews and focus groups. The analysis reveals that players were involved in processes of moving, uncomfortable identification that lessened existing prejudices, increasing the comprehension of certain immigrants’ conditions and fragility, with relevant outcomes in terms of persisting transformative learning.

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Author Biographies

Francesca Antonacci, Dipartimento di Scienze umane per la formazione "Riccardo Massa", Milano Bicocca University

Francesca Antonacci, PhD in Science of Education (2004) is actually Researcher and Assistant professor (from 2007) at Milano Bicocca University (Italy), she holds the chair in Play and Education. Her leading research interests include myths and symbols of education, theories and research methodologies about an imaginative education, theoretical approaches in the field of performing arts and their connections with education.

Maresa Bertolo, Design Department, Politecnico di Milano

Maresa Bertolo is Assistant Professor at Design Department, Politecnico di Milano, member of ImagisLab group.

She teaches Computer Graphics and Game Design (School of Design, Politecnico di Milano), dealing with 2D and 3D animation, stereoscopy, interactive VE, interactive systems and games, focusing on theoretical and practical aspects of the design process,leading students to real games prototypes.

Her research focuses on Game Studies, with a particular interest on ludic activity as vehicle for communication, learning and best practices. She supervises PhD and Msc thesis on Game Studies and Game Design, working with students on many different declinations related with the relationship between play and humans, looking for games able to improve the quality of life for different categories of people on a variety of topics, such as oldage, social rules, communication, ethnical diversities, multiculturality, environmental sustainability. She contributes to international research through papers, intervention in books, participation at conferences; she is co-author of "Game Design" (Pearson, 2014).

Ilaria Mariani, Design Department, Politecnico di Milano

PhD in Design at Politecnico di Milano, Ilaria designs, investigates and lectures in games for social change as systems for communication and social innovation. Her research – theoretical and practical – mainly addresses the meaningful negative experiences certain games create to activate reflection and change. She focuses on games that challenge players to explore civic, social, political, moral or ethical issues, encouraging an alteration of entrenched attitudes and sometimes even behaviours. She researches on games and play(er) experiences both as forms of enquiry as exploration, and as a process of self- and meta-interrogation. To comprehend the impact on players and assess wether the game effectiveness in transferring meanings, she develops and employs interdisciplinary practices and tools (quantitative + qualitative). 

She is part of ImagisLab group, focusing on Game Design, Interactive Narratives and Communication.

As author of scientific essays, articles and as co-author of a book on game design, she is presenting her work at various national and international conferences. 


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