Played out in the basement of the Danish Parliament, the live-action, roleplaying game Politician for a Day, (Politiker for en dag) teaches primary school students about the political and legislative processes driving a democracy as well as their role in it. In an engaging format, the students experience how dialogue, negotiation and compromise are important parts of shaping our legislation. They build up a sense of democratic self-confidence and feel able and motivated to have a say as future voters. 

A new look for 2020

Politician for a Day in its basic form has existed since 2003, but as time passed (and technology evolved) the game grew out of touch with user needs and expectations. Two years ago, a request for proposals to design a new version was sent out with the aim to revitalize the existing game. In collaboration with Norwegian experience developers Expology and MediaFarm, and Danish production company Metronome, Workz won the bid for developing the new and updated game, which will be finalized in early 2020. 

Design supporting ownership and accessibility 

Compared to the previous version, the new design offers a more immersive user experience and the students play a more active role. This is done by placing the students at the centre of the game and getting them as close to reality as possible. To increase their investment in the game, they are treated as politicians rather than students. The students have to take ownership of their role to express their point of view, negotiate with each other, and make important choices. This helps them experience the dynamics of the democratic system and it illustrates the relationship between stakeholders and politicians.

The biggest design challenge has been to create an understanding and enthusiasm about a topic that is both complex and somewhat unknown to our target audience. To make sure that the complexity does not demotivate the participants, premade cases, statements, and proposed acts gives the them a starting point which allows them to focus on the 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 freedom and autonomy.

What will the final version look like?

The design uses virtual scenography and digital tools in every part of the game in order to facilitate interaction between students and encourage reflections around the political work. Working in groups representing fictional political parties, the students interview virtual stakeholders illustrated by video projections, create content for fictional news cast and social media posts published in the game. Finally, they 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. 

A digital dashboard helps the students maintain an overview of the game as it progresses. Here, they keep notes of the information they gather along the way, rank the importance of stakeholders, and check the status of their current tasks. With the dashboard, they are given the freedom to be self-organising as a group and it serves as a point of reference when discussing the next move.

Early results

Politician for a Day is currently moving from the design phase, with prototyping and conceptual testing, and on to the production phase. The basic gameplay, user journey, overall story line, video formats and other aspects of the game have been successfully tested, adjusted and tested again to improve flow and ensure effective learning. Students and teachers have participated in workshops and prototype tests all along the first phase of development. As we enter the production phase of the game, all the insights accumulated in the design phase will shape the next version. 

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 relate to the cases presented e.g. climate change, because it allows them to voice their opinions, and react to counter arguments with confidence in the roleplay setting. All in all, the experience of taking on the ideology of a political party, negotiating and voting engaged the students. It enabled them to understand key elements of the democratic process and take the learnings back to the classroom. 

Future perspectives 

Producing a learning concept as comprehensive as this, gives us the opportunity to learn new skills and explore new tools and methods. We are challenged to come up with creative solutions, which can be transferred to corporate learning and culture building, where we do most of our work.

Not all learning objectives may lend themselves to immersive, game- of roleplaying-based learning experiences – but often the tools and methods are adaptable to different contexts. And for us, the learning game projects are a chance to build and test new tools, to teach others and learn a great deal ourselves. 

For us at Workz, this project in particular is much more than business as usual. It is a unique opportunity to make a difference for our society by improving the democratic literacy of future voters.

We believe that this type of learning is here to stay, and we are happy to see it embraced by public institutions in the education of young adults. Whether it be for public institutions or privately-owned corporations, we are happy to be part of a movement towards the continuous improvement of tomorrow’s learning designs.