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Game Plan 2020

Using mobile games to teach life skills

Photo of Mariam Nusrat
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“Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand." Confucius

With a push towards innovative use of technology in developing countries, and the realization of the effectiveness of games as learning tools, the stage is set for games to be used to teach life skills to youth around the globe. 

We at GRID, Gaming Revolution for International Development, make games that inspire behavioral change among the bottom billion. Our idea is to create a series of games that can teach youth the life skills that are essential in excelling in life but seldom honed through standard teaching methods. The series will include mini games on civic engagement, financial literacy, leadership, time management, decision making and communication. 

We foresee the GamePlan 2020 series to make an impact through the following channels:

  • Interactive: Games are able to leave an impression on our brains that transcends the boundaries of the virtual world. Games appeal to the human psychology in a way most other communication tools do not. Games offer an interactive medium for information dissemination that moves away from brochures and pamphlets. Information disseminated through context-specific stories and role playing is much more likely to influence behavior change as compared to traditional learning tools. 
  • Complex: Game-based learning will allow youth to understand the complex scenarios involved in everyday teaching and understand the trade-offs involved in the decision making process. Using games enables users to evaluate the consequences of their choices. The players are provided with an opportunity to learn through experiences, through trial and error. Games offer a safety environment to test and learn through mistakes so the information becomes meaningful for youth.
  • Games are iterative: Furthermore, the player is exposed to messaging in games in an iterative fashion, the addictive nature of mobile games keeps bringing the player back for more, something that MOOCS, TV ads or movies are not able to do.
  • Cost-effective: Furthermore, the use of video games is also a cost-effective method of improving creating awareness as it involves only one major upfront cost of game development. Once it is made available to the target beneficiaries it can be downloaded on the phones and played multiple times.

Mobile games can provide lifelong learning to individuals and help them make better decisions about their lives, their health, their money and their future, all while having a good time. Games are not just a tool for entertainment but have the ability to inspire and influence people in a positive way.

We have seen games make waves in the fields of education and health, thanks to thought leaders like Jane McGonigal and Asi Burak, but we are only now gaining momentum. We have seen games for the western world, but what about the people who need them the most, the poorest of the poor. What is the role that games can play in educating the bottom billion,helping them make better decisions, about their environment, their money and their futures? That is a horizon waiting to be explored and the time is now to get started.

We are at the cusp of the next big technology boom: the global penetration of smartphones. The Ericson Mobility Report predicts 70% of the world’s population will be using smartphones by 2020. We are looking at a world where smartphones as low as $20 are now available in areas where even toilets are a luxury. This boom opens a window of opportunity, to reach the poor through their phones and use simple mobile games as tools for education and behavior change.

Games offer a platform to engage and involve in the process of building awareness. Games can be used as an interactive medium for information dissemination that moves away from standard learning materials.

Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine higher education to support the needs of tomorrow?

Our idea is designed for the youth in the bottom billion. The youth that does not have access to interactive tools to learn relevant and employable life skills but needs it the most. We are looking to translate the youth demographic into the youth dividend by giving them access to the Game Plan 2020 series on their phones.

This idea emerged from:

  • An individual

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

We welcome ideas for the different life skills that should be included in the mini series. We would also like to learn about existing best practices in using games for skills training.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We would like to pilot a series of three mini games among the youth in Pakistan to get a sense of the appetite for these games.

Tell us about your work experience:

The GRID team has been making games to inspire social change for three years. In the past three years, we have been working on many different games, games that make math learning fun for grade 3 students in The Gambia, games to break the stigma around menstrual hygiene in East Africa to avoid high absenteeism amongst girls, games that break racial and gender stereotypes and games that build capacity for better monitoring of development projects.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Jawad Ali

Hi Mariam,

The work you and GRID are doing is really exciting! As you know, there is a big push for smartphone involvement in healthcare as well. I work in bariatric surgery also and wanted to ask if you have "games" for healthy eating and weight management as well. There is a massive obesity epidemic in developing countries as well as in children and this would be a great way to help address it.



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