Power Core Values: Teaching Racial Bias Awareness Through a Stealth Game and Workshop

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"Power Core Values" presented at JCSG 2023

CMU Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) students Angelina Shi, James Finkel, Yuchan Wu, Phoebe Wang, and Hannah Baxter created a game “Power Core Values” that runs in the browser on desktop computers.  This game is all about fixing a broken spaceship at a space station.  Importantly, it is a persuasive game for eighth graders that shows there are more problems at the space station than just this broken ship.  Through encounters with the various characters and environment, the player witnesses various forms of racial attitudes, privilege, and bias.

After the game is played, the players participate in a workshop where these topics are surfaced for reflection and discussion.  The game-plus-workshop was pilot-tested with 16 eighth graders.  This combination of a serious game followed by workshop discussion led to significant differences in both the consideration of “hurt” toward gameplay characters, and in awareness of racial privilege as measured by the Color-Blind Racial Attitudes Scale.  The paper [1] was presented at the Joint Conference on Serious Games in Dublin, Ireland October 27, 2023.  This work stems from a Working Group

As part of the conference presentation, attendees took part in a paper exercise with printouts of Zun (purple engineer) and Nanoi (pink engineer).  Working through screen shots of the game, attendees folded neither, one, or both of the engineers when they felt the situation illustrated a “hurt” toward that engineer.  At the end of the talk, the printouts were held up, showing clearly that there were dramatically more hurts toward one than the other.  These paper folds symbolize microaggressions, and through the support of family, friends, and teachers one can smooth out those hurts, much like you can hand-straighten your paper.  But, the fold indications remain.  Such an exercise is used in the workshop to surface discussion, as indicated in a web article [2] on how to teach teens about microaggressions.

Michael Christel, ETC Teaching Professor, is pursuing further research with respect to this game and workshop.  See [3] for a link to the paper and slide deck, which includes links to the game and workshop guide as well.  This activity is a result of the Collaboratory Against Hate Working Group 2, Educational Interventions for Youth.  Contact Christel at christel@cmu.edu if interested in such further research.

[1] Christel, M., Shi, A., Finkel, J., Baxter, H., Wang, H.-J., Wu, Y., Washington, R., Maher, B., and Balash, J. Power Core Values: Teaching Racial Bias Awareness through a Stealth Game and Workshop. In: Haahr, M., Rojas-Salazar, A., Göbel, S. (eds) Serious Games. JCSG 2023. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 14309. Springer Nature Switzerland, 2023, pp. 243-256. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-44751-8_19.

[2] Boddapati, S. How to Teach Kids About Microaggressions. In On Our Sleeves: The Movement for Children’s Mental Health, https://www.onoursleeves.org/mental-health-resources/minority-mental-health/how-to-teach-kids-about-microaggressions

[3] Links to the game, Teacher’s Guide, and JCSG 2023 slide deck are included in the JCSG paper citation at https://www.andrew.cmu.edu/user/christel/MyPubs.html.


Mike Christel
Teaching Professor
Carnegie Mellon University