No complex of topics is currently dominating German political and social discourse more than flight and asylum, integration and participation, racism and right-wing populism. Over the past few months, our interactive formats on these topics have been in great demand. They include simulation games on European asylum policy (recently played online in German and Belgian schools), interactive public conferences on issues such as the integration of refugees, training courses for people working in refugee centres, scenario workshops for experts on the future of immigration in Germany, a flight simulation (not in the aeronautic sense…) including deals with traffickers, border controls at the EU’s external border and meeting decision makers from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.
Starting in June, we will have a dedicated „Flight and Integration“ sector. Sandra Holtermann and Christopher Haarbeck will be in charge of running its day-to-day business, advising interested partners and developing strategies.
When Bayer HealthCare commissioned us to develop a simulation game on haemophilia last autumn, we found ourselves in virgin territory. The game depicts how competing ideas for products in the development of medication are evaluated and why certain products prevail over others. Closely working with the Bayer team over several rounds of adjustments paid off: by now, „How to Develop Novel Therapies ‐ New Ways for Hemophilia“ has been played in Boston, Moscow, Buenos Aires and Bogota, thereby becoming our most international simulation game! At the time of writing, the game materials are being translated into Spanish to allow for further use in Latin America.
The game’s success has, of course, made us very happy, even more so since Bayer Healthcare commissioned a new simulation in early May. This time, we are talking about cancer medication. As before, four products are competing against each other. It will be the participants’ task to evaluate the pros and cons of each idea and then spend their money accordingly. In the second half of this year, the game will receive its premiere at the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg.
Europe is where people from different countries meet. Of course, different experiential backgrounds and expectations can lead to intercultural conflict. An EU-funded project on German-Czech youth movements, facilitated by Chemnitz-based organisation “Most – Die Brücke e.V.“, addresses possible ways of approaching such conflicts. We take an advisory role in this project: in cooperation with the Chemnitz Media Institute, we are helping develop a simulation. We have provided the idea, the concept and a scenario while the Media Institute is in charge of developing the game.
The result is our first game on intercultural conflict! At a first glance it appears to be a simulation game on the development of an advertising campaign for a new homework app. However, digging a little deeper, the core of the game addresses intercultural conflicts between the employees of two companies whose approaches to work and communication differ widely while having to work together. The key issue is the way in which the participants deal with conflicts and what this teaches them about tolerance and respect towards people with a different view. The target group are 11-to-14-year-olds from Saxony and the Czech Republic – it is our modest contribution to a more peaceful coexistence across borders.
Following three very successful test runs in Chemnitz, the game is now being completed. During two training sessions, trainers will learn how to facilitate the game themselves.
At the end of June, the department for political science and didactics of politics at the University of Göttingen will host the conference „Teaching EU politics at primary school?! (Approaches and methods tested)” as part of the Jean Monnet project „Simulation Games for an action-oriented conveyance of the EU at primary school level“. At the conference, our colleagues Annegret Schneider, Helen Böhmler, Marlen Richter und Alexandra Ochs will introduce our PEP simulation game for conveying the EU at primary school level. Further presentations include the evaluation of the simulation games, results of several studies and general discussions on approaching political education at primary level. You are cordially invited to take part in the conference.
For the first time in its young history, our simulation game platform saw pupils from two European countries play together online. Initiated and financed by the European Information Centre in Lower Saxony, a total of 35 pupils aged 16 to 18 from Josephinum high school in Hildesheim and the German School Brussels engaged in negotiations about asylum policy. The premiere was a success: the kids not only engaged intensely with the game process, making deals and playfully learning about European lawmaking, they also had a lot of border-transcending fun. Little wonder that teachers and participants have already been enquiring a new round of the game. Should this take place, we will tweak the international coordination mechanisms a little to ensure that participants on all levels are up to date on all relevant information at all times.
What happens when more than 700 youngsters gather at the European Parliament in Strasbourg to develop unconventional ideas for the future of Europe, as they did for the ten ideas labs at this year’s European Youth Event? Well, they certainly do produce some unconventional ideas! Even though the „plastic eating animal“ or the „extraterrestrial enemy to unite us all“ probably weren’t meant to be taken entirely seriously, most ideas were rather convincing. Education and an increase to Europe-wide exchange were on top of the agenda, whether in the fight against terrorism or in aiming for a waste-free economic cycle. This was good news to all of us dealing in education and exchange on a daily basis! We’re clearly not out of a job just yet.
For us, the time in Strasbourg was also a little company outing of sorts since our team comprised 12 employees and freelancers. The only ones to remain in Berlin were the software team, but they were in constant contact with Strasbourg. After all, we used the newest version of our conference app in the ideas labs and it exceeded all out expectations. We now have a software allowing users to pick up on ideas and moods during an event and evaluate and coordinate them. After months of preparation and two days in Strasbourg, we can report that EYE 2016 was a complete success.
Turbulent times are usually ripe with anti-democratic conspiracy theories. In order to alert youngsters around the age of 15 to the dangers of such theories, the Amadeu Antonio Foundation approached us in the autumn of 2015 and asked for the development of a slightly unusual simulation game.
In the fictional scenario, the frequent discovery of so-called ground holes is causing concern. Is it a natural disaster? Is mankind under attack? Or is it all a coincidence? The game allows the participants to develop and defend different explanations, thereby providing them with insight into mechanisms and functions of pseudo-science. During the evaluation, they develop joint strategies for dealing with conspiracy tales and potential believers among friends and family.
Unsurprisingly, reflecting these strongly psychological processes in a simulation game was challenging and required a little more brainstorming than usual. But it was worth it, for what is surely the craziest game we have ever written turned out to be a resounding success in its test run at KGS Halle (Saale). The final materials will be completed and submitted to the Amadeu Antonio Foundation by end of June.