In the basement of the Danish Parliament, primary school students are learning about the political and legislative processes that drive democracy. The goal? To help them build democratic self-confidence on the road towards becoming future voters.
The project is called Politician for a Day, and its unique design has won the German Design Awards 2023 in the categories Game Design and Excellent Communication.
Virtual scenography and fictional news streams
The design uses virtual scenography and digital tools in every part of the game. Working in groups representing fictional political parties, the students interview stakeholders illustrated by video projections, and create content for fictional news cast and social media posts to be published during the game.
The final scene plays out as students vote on the acts proposed in a replica of the Chamber of the Danish Parliament. As such, the scenography plays a significant role in enhancing the experience and inviting the students to fully take on their role as politicians for a day.
Design aimed at ownership and accessibility
Students are placed as close to reality as possible. To increase their investment in the game, they are treated as politicians rather than students from the get go. Here, the principle of roleplaying is key and the Danish Parliament the ultimate setting.
The game design requires students to take ownership of their political persona to express their point of view, negotiate across groups, and collaboratively prioritise their next step in the democratic decision process.
The biggest design challenge has been to instill enthusiasm around a topic that is quite complex and somewhat unknown to our target audience. To make sure that the complexity does not take away from the learning experience, students are introduced to pre-made cases, arguments and virtual stakeholders. This gives them a starting point based on a limited set of pros and cons which allows them to focus on decision making and negotiation. Not only does this make the game accessible in spite of the complexity of the theme, it also gives the students a feeling of autonomy.
Students and their teachers have participated in prototype tests ever since the early stages of development. Students who have experienced the game express their surprise at how elaborate and challenging the job as a politician really is.
At the same time, they appreciate being able to take on the ideology of a political party. First off, because it helps them understand key elements of the democratic process which makes it easier to bring the learnings back to the classroom. And secondly, because the confidence provided by the roleplay setting makes negotiation and arguing more accessible.
Not all learning objectives lend themselves to immersive, roleplaying-based learning experiences. For us at Workz, this project in particular is far from business as usual. It is a unique opportunity to make a difference for our society by improving the democratic literacy.