Fighting oppression online: Digital role-playing games as means for critical dialogue

Jonathan Mendels

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


This study incorporates Paulo Freire's "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" and Augusto Boal's "Theatre of the Oppressed" theories to create an innovative digital role-playing game with Arab-Israeli teachers, who are members of a marginalized minority in Israel and suffer from discrimination and limitations on their freedom of speech in class. The study was conducted using a game platform originally designed by 'To-Be-Education' for the role-playing of sensitive issues in class. As part of the two stage process, the teachers learned about digital games, game-based learning and how to implement games in their classroom; they raised oppressive events they experienced, conducted a blended critical process regarding the possible reasons for these events and adapted them into digital role-playing game scenarios on the "To-Be" platform. They then re-enacted these situations using Boal's "forum theatre" method on the digital stage, conducted a critical dialogue regarding the power relations behind the evets and debated possible alternative outcomes. The scenarios the teachers wrote depicted their personal and professional lives. Through the games they created they were able to discuss the bigger problems their society deals with, such as poverty, unemployment, violence in the streets and in their classroom and political silencing. The use of the platform, along with the unique characteristics of digital games (such as fantasy, anonymity and personalized avatars) allowed the teachers to discuss these issues with greater freedom of speech and provided them with fresh means of dialogue. After the study concluded, many of the teachers reported they felt empowered by the use of the game platform, that they felt they could express themselves with less restrictions online and that the games offered them an arena in which they could simulate different approaches and behaviours without real-life consequences. In this respect, the use of the digital game platform lifted some of the barriers placed on these teacher's freedom of speech.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 14th International Conference on Game Based Learning, ECGBL 2020
EditorsPanagiotis Fotaris
PublisherAcademic Conferences International 
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781912764716
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020
Event14th International Conference on Game Based Learning, ECGBL 2020 - Brighton, United Kingdom
Duration: 24 Sep 202025 Sep 2020

Publication series

NameProceedings of the 14th International Conference on Game Based Learning, ECGBL 2020


Conference14th International Conference on Game Based Learning, ECGBL 2020
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Critical Pedagogy
  • Dialogue
  • Digital role-playing games
  • Marginalized communities
  • Teacher education
  • Theatre of the Oppressed

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Software
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Education


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