Facilitating Social Inclusion of Migrant Students through Digital Games: Design Principles and Pitfalls in Wanderers


  • Kristine Oygardslia Nord University
  • Kristine Ask Norwegian University of Science and Technology




Games for inclusion, Collaborative games in classrooms, Game design principles


Schools are central in facilitating the inclusion of migrants and refugees in society. However, research from the LIM: Language, Integration, Media project has shown a lack of activities where students from various cultural backgrounds can come to know one other on equal terms. To meet this need, we designed a collaborative puzzle game – Wanderers – with the goal of facilitating low-stakes social interaction and cultural exchange between high school students with and without migrant backgrounds. This article outlines this design process and explores the design principles and pitfalls for digital games that support the social inclusion of migrants in a classroom setting. In the study, we use a design-based research methodology to address the research question:  what design principles can be used to support social inclusion through cultural exchange in local collaborative play? We outline and discuss the following key design principles for games designed to facilitate social inclusion: 1) Facilitating cultural exchange through “safe topics”; 2) Promoting mutual dependency; 3) Diversity in representation and 4) A stimulating theme. We argue that these design principles can be used to design positive experiences that support the idea of inclusion as a two-way process. However, our discussion also shows how these design principles can also reinforce existing majority/minority configurations, and how conventional game design principles may fall short when applied in this specific context. The paper argues for the importance of low-threshold activities, such as small talk about food and holiday traditions, while also highlighting specific challenges in designing games for social integration.