Parable of the Paragons.

Games can raise awareness of social, environmental or medical issues. They do this by introducing the issue in a playful context. When playing a game, a person voluntarily tackles obstacles in order to progress through the game. The idea of serious games is to use obstacles to raise awareness of the cause. By the time an individual has reached 21 years old, it is estimated they will have spent 10,000 hours gaming. Why not use some of that time to raise awareness for causes?

I decided to have a go at playing one of these games to see if this concept worked. My original choice was Darfur is Dying, which aims to give the user experience of existing in a Sudanese refugee camp I decided against it when my second character was captured, after running round aimlessly for a few seconds. It’s safe to say I’m not a gamer.

Not to be defeated I tried Parable of the Polygons.  This consisted of rearranging squares and triangles until they were happy with their neighbours. There were different scenarios in which the polygons desired varying levels of segregation and mixing.

It was a simple but effective conceptScreenshot (50), illustrating racial bias in our society. Whilst the shapes denied they were shapist, they were only happy when their neighbourhood had the shape mix they desired.

I have always lived in multi-cultural neighbourhoods and never thought anything of it, but looking back there have been definite enclaves. In Manchester, there was the afro-Caribbean suburb, with the Indian suburb next to it and the Jewish area, the other side of the city. It all added to the rich culture of the city, but I can understand people wanting to live near people of the same culture, without any racism being involved.

I think it is a good game to raise the awareness of our biases and become more understanding of why people of the same culture often prefer to live near to those of the same culture. It also illustrated the concept of multi-cultural neighbourhoods being desirable by gradually introducing the shapes to other shapes and hopefully reducing their biases.  However, it was a simple game which presented few challenges.

Serious games are a good idea for raising awareness, whilst playing. I particularly feel that games aimed at children suffering from life threatening or chronic illnesses are a great idea, by empowering them and educating them. However,  for the serious gamer, games need to offer more challenges than Parable of the Polygons, although this did offer a good introduction into the concept of learning whilst playing and may encouraged further exploration of serious games.

Image attribution

Screenshot of

Hart, V. Case, N. (n.d.) Parable of the Polygons. Taken 11/05/16 from




13 thoughts on “Parable of the Paragons.

  1. Sarah Ross says:

    I am so glad you are not a natural gamer! My hand-eye co-ordination is appalling so trying to do some games is beyond me.

    I too like the idea of serious games and really appreciated the video of the game for helping children with cancer – Re-Mission. I think for me it was that it gave them a sense of empowerment through visualisation. Being in hospital as an adult patient is so disempowering and I found I switch to some sort of passive mode which annoys me. It must be worse for teenagers who are still trying to find their ‘power’ or ‘voice’.

    Great post as usual, Sarah


    • Deborah Fuller says:

      Thanks Sarah, You are right being in hospital is very disempowering. I was in for a short while earlier in the year and despite spending my career in hospitals, I felt lost and vulnerable, having to rely on the nurses for so much. It must be awful as a kid, frightening, not understanding what’s happening and in pain and feeling ill. I think Re-Mission and other games of this ilk are a really good idea to help them through such a traumatic time and understand their treatment so they become more compliant with it. I was one of the ones who cried when I watched the video.


      • Sarah Ross says:

        Not having children, I had never thought of the idea of compliance with a treatment but I think I am beginning to understand now. It must be so difficult to explain to a child that being in pain/discomfort is actually making them better. Visualising the process would be of some help. (I too was in tears).


    • Deborah Fuller says:

      Thanks Kathleen, but I have to confess it wasn’t me that found them, they were suggested on the learning activities page.


  2. Katie Ferguson says:

    I was absolutely, completely traumatised by Darfur is Dying. It was a complete fail from start to finish – I spent so much time cowering that I was doomed to die and my greatest achievement was watering a crop (with water that was already in the camp, since I was so bad at collecting it). It did fabulously illustrate its point though, I think.

    But I might have nightmares about it…


    • Deborah Fuller says:

      Hi Katie, That’s why I decided to stop playing it, when I felt guilty about the fates of my characters. You are right, it does illustrate its point if it can get the players to feel that way.


  3. Karen says:

    One of the reasons these games are so effective as teaching or education tools is because they follow behavioural game design. They’re constructed to engage and draw users in and keep them engaged over time.

    This sort of design has been around for a while now, decades in fact. One of the criticisms oft lobbed at it is that the approach can fuel maladaptive game behaviour in users. Kids, for example, have found Minecraft to be a mixed bag for that reason (

    Do you think these games are double edged swords? Be really interested in your thoughts on how we could safely use them to educate kids (big ones and little ones).


    • Deborah Fuller says:

      Hi Kaz, thanks for your comments. It was a really interesting link you shared. My 9 year old nephew is obsessed by Minecraft and if his parents hadn’t put strict time limits on when he can play he would be on it every waking moment. I saw firsthand this obsession, when I visited last year and in his allocated 1/2 hour we couldn’t get a word out of him, the rest of the time he was a normal chatty kid. I do think they are double edged sword, because it is very easy to get hooked on a game, to the exclusion of all else. “I’ll just get to the next level”. I think they can be used educationally however and for children with health conditions, but I think that some level of supervision, either parental or other adult carer to limit the time spent on it. I’m a bit old fashioned, I think kids need to get in the fresh air and burn off some energy. The other danger is children who are shy (like my nephew) could use the game as a substitute for friends and withdraw into the world of the game, which is going to make their isolation worse and may cause them problems as adults. Apart from monitoring and controlling their use, I’m not sure what we can do.


  4. roshan says:


    I also believe that gamification is a very good and also very effective tool.
    Game is used for various purposes.You have used a game for awareness, which is a very good concept.Your findings on inter-racial culture is a very serious issue.Even today, as you have mentioned there are suburbs of people from same culture and background.And, may be its a natural feeling that Asian people would like to live nearby other Asian people or community.However, we can see that the time is changing, people are trying to end inter- racial activity.I have seen many examples of marriages between inter-racial people.These are very good signs of making a world a single community, to make a world of only one race,and it should be mankind and humanity.
    I would like to thank you for picking up this game and sharing your experience among everyone.


    • Deborah Fuller says:

      Hi Roshan, I agree with everything you are saying. We are all people and should live peacefully together no matter what our race, gender, culture or sexuality and appreciate and celebrate our differences and similarities.


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