Trauer-Spiel Workshop (TSW) taps game design as playful process to get in touch with personal experiences such as loss and grief. I developed TSW as part of my PhD project, in which I investigated playful ways to support mourners in their grief. Making video games turned out to be a powerful process of “finding voice”, and starting meaningful conversations about loss and love.
During the first TSW, the participants created symbolic images of their relationships to their dead children. Taking inspiration from these images, and the desires they expressed, we developed Jocoi, a game which revolves around a sheep mother and her child.
What participants said:
“Creativity, power, solace”
“A couple of hours just for me, my child, and people who understand me”
“I would like to do a similar workshop again”.
During the workshop, the participants are guided through a series of imagination and game design exercises which bring to the fore current emotional states. Themes and exercises are tailored to the needs of participants. Participants are encouraged to model their feelings and fears by translating them into game worlds, rules, and objectives. The resulting games are then observed and engaged in a closing discussion.
No prior experience with video games or game design needed!
TSW is for…
- Educators: Reaching out to kids and teens isn’t always easy. TSW can enhance empathy and (self-)perception in the classroom by providing a creative and unorthodox tool for expression. This goes for adults as well, since a “ludic view” on life may challenge previous angles, and allow constructive engagement with one’s fears, needs, and experiences.
- Therapists: TSW can be used as complementary method in systemic and expressive art therapeutic treatments. The translation process of experiences into game objectives, mechanics, and audio-visual elements offers a new therapeutic language, and may expedite clients’ process of “finding of voice”. The modelling of mobile symbolic landscapes throughout TSW is a meaningful device to tackle traumatic experiences playfully.
- Self-help groups: Furthermore, TSW provides a platform for informal conversation about shared loss experiences. The game design process proper, as well as the final game, can be meaningful tools to navigate commonalities and differences in shared loss and grief experiences.