SIMaging the City

The Educational Use of Video Games
in a Youth Club of Palermo (Italy)

SIMimaging the City is a project planned by MED (Italian Association for Media Education) and Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore of Milan for young people inhabitants living in disadvantage contexts.

Target group

young people (12-18 years old). In this specific case they are young people who attend the Centro TAU, which is a Youth Club in Zisa (a neighborhood of Palermo, Italy).

Objectives

SIMimaging the City is realizable in three months (30 hours) and it intend to achieve three educational goals:

1) making young people aware of the most significant aspects of surrounding reality starting from their own life experience through the identification of present elements and those dispersed throughout the territory of belonging. This consists in critical observation of reality from an aesthetic and emotional slant;

2) arousing in young people a greater consciousness of the elements characterising the reality lived or desired by themselves. Making a virtual projective action by young people through their choices and the expression of their own desires “materialized”, made visible and sharable right in activities and in existing locations within virtual worlds of video games favorites;

3) exploiting educational opportunities inherent in the major functions provided by SimCity 4. Stimulating a self-reflective process would be able to conduct towards the realization of an ideal city aimed at changing the existing reality, taking a proactive attitude and a renewed critical sense.

Activity 1

Three steps:

  • First of all, the first step requires an educator introduce the operational goals and activities planned for young people taking part in the project, spurring on the young people to think about surrounding context and on aspects the most important in relation with their own experieces of life spent there.
  • Then young people take pictures and shot some videos, collecting meaningful images related to places the most attended by inhabitants (church, restaurant, betting center etc.); these all are places very representative of the reality and of personal experience of such young people.
  • Finally it pass to implementation of the flash card by the group so as to obtain an overall view of the neighborhood (a choral portrait of a particular life context of which the young people themselves are an integral part).

Activity 2

Educator shows to the youths the aim of the activity in question so as to prepare them for the correct carring out of the selection of a reasoned list of video games close to the users or for relevance to real life context or to the (collective) immagination to which the young people feel connected.  After starts a real video games tournament orientated to induce participants to examine the dynamics of the game immediately after the matches, to comment their own and others behaviors and finally, per video game, to identify features that make it more or less suitable to represent the reality lived or desired by users.

Activity 3

First of all, it needs to prepare the setting where recreational activity had to be carried out: for this purpose in each computer it install the video game (SimCityTM 4 Deluxe Edition) and to present the operative aims of the project and to give instructions on how to play to the novice users, if needed assisted by another player. Game sessions (which in our case extended from March into May 2012) schedule meetings lasting two hours, including also the time for considerations about gaming experience just carried out. Reflections that take shape during the compilation of the questionnaires and the grant of the interviews aimed to the drawing up, by participants in the educational project, of a list of elements wished by the group (e.g. public green, recreational areas and meeting places for young people, big and modern sports facilities, shopping areas widely able to meet the needs of the community, large roads, ports and international airports).

Products

Product 1: a map of the lived reality in the shape of a flash card.

Product 2: elaboration of a list of video games appreciated and chosen on the basis of relevance to everyday life against which inhabitants habitually measure themselves or to which they aim looking into their future.

Product 3: the shared vision of the ideal city by the participants to the project SIMaging the City.