Digital Narratives to Promote Empathy

While we believe that empathy takes time to build, we have found some online choose-your-own-adventure stories that aim to begin a process of empathy in a short period of time. Try some of them and let us know how they make you feel, what you learn, and any critiques you may have.

  1. Spent — this game is about empathizing with poverty; you make choices and life hits you back; Play it at least twice and record not only what you achieve, but also how you feel before and after, and what you learned. The game has an “ask a friend of a loan/help” feature that makes you post to social media, so I will ask you to use Twitter for that – so people watching will see this unfold.
  2. BBC Syrian Refugees — this game asks you to take on the role of a Syrian refugee and make decisions about how to escape and where to escape to and how. Play this one twice, taking different decisions each time, again reporting on how it felt and what you learned. Tweet some reflections after each iteration of the game and something you learned.

If you are interested in going further, here are some more digital narrative games to try:

  1. Darfur is Dying – about people in Darfur (would be interesting to compare it to Syrian Refugees game)
  2. Liyla – this is about people in Palestine (I had it as an app on my phone – I think there’s a web-based version also)
  3. Depression Quest – warning, this game may put you down if you’re already feeling kind of depressed as it is about putting yourself in the shoes of someone who is very depressed and making decisions on their behalf that might make them more or less depressed. It is a very good game if you know someone who suffers from depression and want to help them.
  4. Bury me, my love (Syrian focused)
  5. Pry – about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  6. Voter Suppression Trial (via New York Times) – this one was funnier before Trump won, but still…
  7. Sleep-deprived mom
  8. Game on responsible partying
  9. GetBadNews.com – Impersonate a person who is creating fake news
  10. Previous student games from Maha Bali’s classes

If you find these interesting, blog your reflections comparing the different games you have played.

Did you know you could create your own games? You can do this easily using one of these tools:

  • Google Forms (or any surveying tool that allows branching)
  • Google slides (using links for branching decisions)
  • Inklewriter
  • More advanced: Twine (open source)

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