Profs use video games to teach about 'white privilege'

Two Illinois professors are using “social justice video games” developed by high school students to teach about “white privilege” and “police misconduct.”

The Street Arcade”—a collaboration between Steven Ciampaglia, a professor at Northern Illinois University, and Kerry Richardson, who teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago—is designed to help teens create “social issue video games as a platform for community dialogue.”

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The program began in the summer of 2015, when the professors worked with 13 teenagers from Chicago’s South Side to create a series of art video games on contemporary social issues, which include “white privilege, racial profiling, peer pressure, and others,” according to their website.

The video games, which can also be played online, were then unveiled to the public at the Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago later that summer, where passersby could play titles such as “Can You Serve and Protect?” and “Growing Up Black in Chicago.”

"I am African American and I see on the news how the police are killing my kind,” reads a description of the the former. “It kind of hurts me and I want to just change that to make a better world, for not only my community, but for everybody else."

Neither Richardson nor Ciampaglia responded to inquiries from Campus Reform as to whether the program is currently running, but the professors just published an article on their project in the latest issue of the Journal of Art Education.

“Video games are clearly attractive to teens in our experience running community art programs,” they said, noting that they’ve often found that teenagers want to learn how to make them. “We designed this project to capitalize on this allure by using the new media art conception of video games to—known as art games—as a medium for social justice.”

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The project was funded by the nonprofit A Blade of Grass, which granted the professors $20,000 in “unrestricted project support” and a one-year fellowship, according to their announcement of their 2015 Fellows for Socially Engaged Art.

Earlier this year, the nonprofit produced a video in praise of the program, during which students lamented the preponderance of “white people programming the games” that are normally released to the public, and expressed a desire for more women and minorities to be involved in the video game industry.

“The game is engaging people and putting them into this place where they’re forced to consider [these social justice issues],” Professor Richardson said in the video.

Neither professor responded to requests for comment on their program.

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