Where does the idea of creating a Serious Game come from? What are the impulse and the goal? For ‘Aislados’ the answer is clear: How can we approach teenagers speaking their own language? ‘Aislados’ was born to help teachers confront the teenagers’ emotional development in class.
Funded mainly by the Spanish Antidrug Plan with money coming from confiscated goods in antidrug operations, the game goes further than just alerting about drugs. Social behavior, personal choices, acceptance, decision making… teenagers face in a short period of their lives the necessity of learning who they are, how they interact with others and which are the results of those decisions. They have little space for trial and error so basically, a lot of them make mistakes and are judged severely for them.
For educators, the traditional approach of leaflets and speeches is completely obsolete. They need to reach adolescents talking their own language and avoiding a moralist tone that will discourage interest and implication. This is what triggered the idea of creating a game to be used in the classroom. A group of psychologists, social educators and teachers, with the help of SIAD (Spanish for Interdisciplinary Service for Drug addiction Attention Association), created the paper-based first version of ‘Aislados’ and took it to the classroom.
The role-playing game takes students into a ship wreckage involving teenagers like them. In their way to an amazing vacation, a storm hits the ship and its occupants end up lost in an island. Players control one of the characters and are responsible for his/her actions and interaction with other survivors. Every step of the way, they will need to choose how they want to act in different situations. Just like in any other role-playing game, in this 2D graphic adventure, the player assigns the character hability points usually related with the player’s own personality. Depending on the decisions made during the gameplay, these points will grow or decrease.
When the paper-based game proved to be a success, the team of developers decided to go a step further and turned it into a video game. Then, recognition from institutions, nominations and prizes appeared all of a sudden. During 2015, ‘Aislados’ has been present in every award ceremony related with Serious Games in Spain, the last one being the prestigious Queen Sofia’s National Award against Drugs to take the educational area award.
‘We are really impressed about all this recognition’ – explains Alejandro Gañán, psychologist and co-author of ‘Aislados’ – ‘we weren’t expecting that. Our intention was just creating better tools for our work and be able to help kids understanding what’s going on with their emotions. What we pretend is not lecturing students, but give them space to reflect and talk about what they would or wouldn’t do and why. It’s amazing what happens when you have an entire classroom playing ‘Aislados’ at the same time. As a teacher, you don’t need to bring out the subject you want to explain to them, they just talk about it spontaneously once they have played the game’
‘‘Aislados’ has been designed trying not to sound too moralist. – explains Alejandro – ‘If kids think we are trying to lecture them, they will disconnect immediately. What we want is make them think and reach their own conclusions. We don’t tell them drugs are bad or good, we just show the consequences of certain decisions. A lot of problems related with drugs come from bad elections in social relations so that is what we want them to explore in a video game before they confront it in real life.’
Game mechanics have been carefully selected. Not only role games but also puzzles and mini-games will be faced by students. ‘We want them to expect anything. That way they will stay hooked in the game. – explains Alejandro – ‘Aislados’ is also full with activities that are simply fun games, not at all related with what we want them to learn. This way, they don’t know what to expect and they continue playing wondering what will come next.’
Students are accepting the game positively, but what about parents and educators? Serious Games still have a huge obstacle beating the distrust video games provoke in adults. ‘Not long ago, video games were intended to be included as a form of addiction – relates Alejandro – it is amazing how we have turned the table and how politics starts to be on our side. When we are about to launch ‘Aislados’ program in a school, we start with a conference for parents and educators. We explain to them what we are going to do and why this is a great method to engage teenagers attention. After these sessions, adults usually are on our side. It is easy to see that Serious Games are a key in the education of future generations.‘
‘Aislados’ is a 2D graphic adventure to be played on your computer for free. Currently, the game is only available in Spanish but SIAD is working on the English translation. ‘We have seen the potential of the game. We would love to grow and become the ‘Inside Out’ of educative video games, but to accomplish this dream, we will need funding and data. We are now focused in gathering data about the results of ‘Aislados’. Once we prove the game is doing good in this area, we are planning to develop a second version with better graphics and a great story to be used in activities aimed also to older participants.’
You can play ‘Aislados’ registering in the official website www.aislados.es. If you are a parent or a teacher interested in using the game in your school, you can contact SIAD association in the email: firstname.lastname@example.org.