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Serious Gaming As a Learning Tool


Last week at LSC's 15th TIG conference, I attended some really great breakaway sessions about how different groups are using technology to better assist their clients. As somewhat of a gamer myself, I was very excited to learn about orgs that are developing or interested in developing games to assist self-represented litigants.

"Serious Gaming as A Learning Tool" explored the evolution and application of game design for serious purposes. There is a lot of evidence that games are engaging and effective teaching tools, but in legal services we are just beginning to explore this area. The presentation included visual examples of successful efforts using games to teach real-life skills, both in and out of legal services.



Susan Garcia Nofi, Executive Director, New Haven Legal Assistance Association, Inc.

Dan Jackson, Executive Director, NuLawLab - Northeastern University School of Law

Casper Harteveld, Assistant Professor, Northeastern University


Connecticut Law Help (CTLawHelp) Identified a need to develop solutions for self represented litigants (SRL) after finding that a large number of SRL's experience stress related issues including depression and weight loss. Moreover, about 80% of litigants appear in court without lawyers to argue very serious cases. 


New Haven Legal Assistance partnered with NuLawLab to create a game which could better prepare SRL's for their day in court. The game which is currently under development will put litigants before a virtual judge to help demystify the courtroom and diminish anxiety for those who cannot afford legal representation. 

Dr. Harteveld, an assistant professor of game design at Northeastern University, is also working closely with New Haven Legal assistance and NuLawLabs to develop the game. Harteveld offered a brief history of games emphasizing that  power of learning inherent in games.  He referenced  Homo Ludens or "Playing Man" a book which discusses the importance of play to the development of culture and society.


Military games date back to ancient Egypt. Senet, a board game from predynastic and ancient Egypt dates to around 3100 BCE! 


More Educational Games:

Military: Chess, Go, America's Army

Political Games: The ReDistricting Game, Budget Hero, the McDonalds game

Health:  Remission 2

Science & Education:  Fold it

 Legal Aid Organizations are beginning to utilize games and their unique power to teach. There were several  great ideas for innovative games being thrown around at the TIG conference, and I'm excited to see what people come up with this year!


Please use the comments section to share your game ideas and suggestions. If you are interested in developing a game, I  suggest using the LSTech listserv to find experts and potential partners. 


Below are the worksheets used at the 2015 TIG Conference Session on Collaborative Game Design. The worksheets were developed parallel to Dr. Harteveld's Triadic Game Design (TGD) book to educate about TGD a model which incorprates reality, meaning, and play in game design. These worksheets are a great place to get started!

Reality Worksheet Develop a model of reality to base your game. IE) Religion, Globalization, Financial Crisis, etc

              Sample Reality Models

Meaning Worksheet Pick a value or value proposal. IE) Exploration, Social Skills, Declarative Knowledge

               Meaning/Value Examples & Explanations

Play Worksheet Choose the genre (shoooter, strategy, survival, etc) of your game and fill out this worksheet. 

                Game Genres 

Criteria Worksheet Is your game flexible and adaptable? Is your game realisitc (look/feel) Is it fun to play? etc.