Refuge: a story game about refugees

In 2017, my game Refuge was a winner in the Civic Games Contest held by the journal The Good Society, and it was presented at the Frontiers of Democracy conference in Boston, Mass., on June 23rd.

The contest was “a design competition for analog games that seek to promote the understanding and/or practice of good citizenship” and Refuge won in the “awareness-raising” category. The announcement is here:

Refuge is a storytelling game for 2 to 4 people. Players become refugees as they struggle to create new lives for themselves in an unfamiliar land. What might it be like to flee your home to a new land? It is a powerful testament to what games with simple rules can do to put us in the shoes of those who have lost almost everything.

Needless to say, I was stoked! I have been tinkering with Refuge for many years, beginning when I learned about some of the issues surrounding resettlement and crossing cultures while manager of the Centre for Applied Cross-cultural Research at Victoria University of Wellington.

The contest-winning version of the game is available for free download at the contest winners page. Here’s a direct link to the PDF.

Many thanks to Simon Carryer and Steve Hickey who provided strong early guidance, and to playtesters Karen Wilson and Ivan Towlson who helped fire it into presentable shape.

** Important note: I consider Refuge a work-in-progress. I am proud of this version of the game, but it has one crucial limitation: it hasn’t been tested with refugees and those who work with them. Until I get and incorporate feedback from people who have lived a refugee experience, this can only be considered a draft. **

[Photo credit: “Refugees Welcome” by strassenstriche (CC BY-NC 2.0).]

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