A group for gamers
Last fall of 2015, we were contacted by two employees from Aarhus Youth Centre of the municipality of Aarhus, regarding a presentation on gaming and gaming-culture. They had a group of boys who played computer to the extent that their school-, family- and social lives suffered tremendously. Shortly hereafter, Thoke Thomsen with Aarhus Youth Centre, and Christian Mogensen with Centre for Digital Youth Care, initiated what would later become the gaming group “UC Gaming,” which invited young people to meet weekly in order to talk about their gaming - but also, playing games together. Parents and professionals very much worried about how much time would be spent in front of the computer and which challenges those young people - “who already had a very hard time” - would face.
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By Christian Mogensen, speaker and project manager, CfDP
We started out with three young people. Initially, the idea was to offer a carrot in order to involve them with everyday life at Aarhus Youth Centre. Computer gaming and spending time with Thoke and myself, were meant to make the services of Aarhus Youth Centre more attractive. Very quickly, though, it made sense to reverse the issue of a worrying consumption of gaming: The games were not the reason that things were bad at school or at home; they were symptoms hereof. We met a group of young people who would love to be social as well as involved, but for different reasons, they were not capable or had the courage to do so. So, they embraced gaming – an arena custom-made to provide an appropriate amount of responsibility, resistance, support, feedback, and a pat on the back.
Computer games are not designed to be fun – they are designed for people to succeed in
This way, computer games are incredible – when your turn on your console at home, you are suddenly the guy who kisses the princess, kills the dragon, or saves the world. This is a healthy experience – young as well as old – if you are able to translate your empowerment to the rest of your life, too. When we reversed our equation, the otherwise unsolvable knot began to loosen: There was a common ground for communication and learning, which had previously been invisible – suddenly, people would talk about modern neuroscience, legislation and contemporary history for a full 60 minutes, and as if by magic, our young people had their minds and hearts involved with the project – and with themselves. We made an effort to meet our young people where they, in fact, were – rather than where we would like them to be.
Through support from, among others, supervising psychologists and interested colleagues, the project and its target frame was developed. Several of our young people got involved with school and family again, and all met social objectives seen with the eyes of both parents, professionals, and themselves.
Today, the project is anchored in Aarhus Youth Centre of Aarhus municipality and Centre for Digital Youth Care; a united multidisciplinary and personnel effort is undertaken across all the diagnoses, issues, challenges, and personalities present in the group. Our latest big project was to furnish and decorate the very nice rooms made available by Aarhus Youth Centre with sharks, waves, and all sorts of maritime elements – matching our purchased computers from Shark Gaming. Young people showed up far more times a week than the project was scheduled for – not in order to play computer games – but for the purpose of painting, working, helping, and being together on their project.
Aarhus municipality as a whole, along with a great many related employees, have been invaluable for the project to reach the degree of stability and professional capacity present today; administrative employees who have assisted in finding the correct paragraphs and shortcuts in gnarled regulations, and staff whose great knowledge on the pedagogical and psychological field could be combined with CfDP’s experience and know-how on digital pedagogy and digital identity, making it possible to meet young people on their grounds.
The journey has cost many night hours managing project descriptions, fund applications, grants, objectives and thoughts – but now, we are left with more than 10 young people in our gaming group, several people on our waiting list, and an incredible daily life with wonderful, social and dedicated young people, who have acquired a language for their hobby and an understanding of how it can either be a springboard to the rooms of their peers – or a step further to a career as an eSports athlete – or a presenter specialising in computer games…
Currently, Aarhus Youth Centre and Centre for Digital Youth Care, are evaluating and systemising the long process leading to the successful “UC Gaming” group, so that we may help other municipalities establish similar services in early 2017.