At-risk youth populations are often uncomfortable in formal learning settings for a variety of reasons, depending on the source of their disadvantage. However, human beings are naturally social, playful animals, and young people in particular are drawn to creative diversions, particularly those that create feelings of excitement and accomplishment. While young people typically seek out video and computer games for excitement and a sense of accomplishment, those platforms are not very creative, and either are not social at all, being games you play solo, or can actually contribute to negative, aggressive social behavior because of the anonymity of the computer interaction. Face-to-face table-top role-playing games, on the other hand remove the anonymity factor, as the participants are seated around the table together, seeing each other’s body language, hearing tone of voice, often sharing meals during the game, much as previous generations used to socialize. Additionally, since there is no computer interaction dictating how the story must go, player must engage the creative parts of their brains in helping craft an adventure and story together.
Because the game is fun and exciting, the didactical nature of the exercise is hidden from the player so instead of being yet another thing they are required to do, it is instead something they look forward to doing.
The learning game specifically makes an attempt to get young people away from computers and acquire valuable skills. It will focus on direct social interaction between learners and put them in situations in which they need to solve problems through teamwork, communication skills, good plans, and improvisation. At the same time it will train logical skills, social skills, and mathematical skills and it will also teach cultural knowledge through a stealth learning approach by using a Norse mythology game setting. As a role-playing game the learning tool is a team game that also trains soft skills (like improvisation, effective communication, responsibility, interpersonal skills, decision making, leadership skills, ability to handle personal problems).
Game situations prepare learners for international work situations, simulating challenges that need to be solved in diversified teams. The game will motivate the learners as a fun activity while immersing them in an ideal social learning environment. The goal is to have youth workers act as the game director to help guide the players and mentor them in learning things to which they may not be accustomed. However, with a little experience youth can take on the role of game director themselves.
In the scope of the project the game will be developed and tested in English since extensive studies are part of the didactical development, and an initial multilingual development would increase the costs drastically. However, once the approach works well it should be translated to other languages. The consortium will make an effort to advance the creation of other language versions after the end of the project.
The RUNE project will positively impact socialization of disadvantaged youths by giving young people an interesting and fun opportunity to engage in an immersive experience in a social, face-to-face setting. Reading of the rule books and other game materials will help the learners improve their reading comprehension. The social environment of the game, with several players and a game leader sitting around a table together will offer an excellent setting for practicing verbal communications. In addition, role playing games of this sort encourage teamwork and cooperative problem solving, as well as encouraging creativity, or “outside the box” thinking. The game character allows learners to completely immerse themselves in the fun aspect, in effect creating a “stealth learning” situation as an enjoyable pastime. In this context learning becomes self-guided and self-motivated.