The People: A Serious Role-playing Game Designed to Address a Humanitarian Crisis




serious games, refugees, role-playing games, migration crisis, humanitarian aid


In this article, I present a case study of the serious role-play game The People, which was created as a response to the migration crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border in cooperation with an engaged collective of researchers and groups of activists. The game combines elements of role-playing, a board game, and cards to present the complexity of the situation in the Emergency State Zone on the Polish-Belarusian border, especially on the practical, social, and institutional levels. The purpose of the tool is to raise the participants’ awareness of the current situation and to enhance an active search for solutions to the crisis.

The game enables participants to adopt a perspective of a border zone resident or a refugee, and ultimately modify the rules governing the world to make it fairer. Providing the participants with agency to reconstruct the game environment during the debriefing made it possible to generate numerous possible solutions at the level of direct interventions; e.g., providing shelters in forests, training residents in first aid; legal, e.g., access by doctors and media, allowing humanitarian organizations; and executive, e.g., more effective enforcement of European law. Also, the exposure to goals inconsistent with personal views under significant immersion evokes various strategies to deal with the clash, including passive agreement, rationalization, gentle disagreement, and extreme disagreement. Such a game can inspire a positive change in the level of participants’ understanding, interesting solutions, activist attitudes, and empathy towards asylum seekers. However, the game can also expose the dangerous, existing mechanisms that pose a challenge to society, and what should be monitored and possibly mitigated in the future.




How to Cite

Szatkowska, W. (2023). The People: A Serious Role-playing Game Designed to Address a Humanitarian Crisis. International Journal of Role-Playing, (14), 9–21.