Democratising Digital Educational Game Design for Social Change




Digital games can be used as educational tools for tackling structural inequalities and promoting social justice. Designing games with these purposes is often a complex task that requires a myriad of combined expertise, including games’ mechanics, software development, educational game design, pedagogy, and knowledge of the educational topic (which can target very specific social issues). Democratising the design of educational games is used to increase the agency and participation of diverse and novice groups throughout design processes - and can be used to improve the efficiency of such games as it directly leads to the inclusion of broad voices, knowledge, experiences and perspectives. This research adopted a Design-Based Research methodology to create, evaluate and validate 13 design principles to democratise the design of educational games for social change. Three research phases were implemented in turn: a preliminary research, prototyping and evaluation phase. The preliminary research phase was based on creating these principles by grounding them on fundamentals of Critical Pedagogy, a theory of education which presents pedagogical techniques to accelerate learning, engagement and social change. The prototyping phase was based on conducting semi-structured interviews to assess and improve these principles with educational and game design experts. During the evaluation phase, these principles were applied and evaluated during two weekend-long game design events, which were mostly attended by diverse groups who had never designed a digital game before. This research presents theoretical and practical contributions related to how to democratise educational game design for social change. It evidenced the relevance of facilitating design principles that addresses what could be done to trigger learning in games by presenting design principles; why this learning could be facilitated, from both educational and gaming perspectives; and how to implement these principles into an educational game.

Author Biographies

Christina Myers, ODI

Dr Christina Myers is a Senior Research Officer at the Oversea Development Institute (ODI) with the Equity and Social Policy programme. She has been working for EdTech Hub, a global research partnership generating evidence and research related to educational technologies. Her research explores the design and implementation of educational technologies and how they could be used to improve girls’ education, equity and children's learning outcomes.

Lara Piccolo, Open University UK and CODE University of Applied Sciences

Dr Lara Piccolo is a Research Fellow at the Knowledge Media Institute of the Open University in the UK. Lara is a Human-Computer Interaction expert in socio-technical design. Her research looks at the design and role of technology to engage people and communities with some global challenges like climate change, inequalities and universal access to technology.

Trevor Collins, Open University UK

Dr Trevor Collins is a Senior Research Fellow at The Open University’s Knowledge Media Institute. His interdisciplinary research focuses on the design and use of technologies to enhance teaching and learning. This includes the development of interactive web broadcasting to provide lab and fieldwork experiences at a distance, and the use of mobile and network technologies to facilitate the participation of students with disabilities in field courses.



How to Cite

Myers, C., Piccolo, L., & Collins, T. (2023). Democratising Digital Educational Game Design for Social Change. Journal of Learning for Development, 10(1), 55–74.



Research Articles
Received 2022-06-22
Accepted 2023-03-14
Published 2023-03-20