Civic Creativity: Role-Playing Games in Deliberative Process

Eric Gordon, Jason Haas, Becky Michelson


This article analyzes the use of a role-playing game in a civic planning process. We focus on the qualities of interactions generated through gameplay, specifically the affordances of voluntary play within a “magic circle” of the game, that directly impact participants’ ability to generate new ideas about the community. We present the results of a quasi-experimental study where a role-playing game (RPG) called @Stake is incorporated into participatory budgeting meetings in New York City and compared with meetings that incorporated a trivia game. We provide evidence that the role-playing game, which encourages empathy, is more effective than a game that tests knowledge for generating what we call civic creativity, or an individual’s ability to come up with new ideas. Rapid ideation and social learning nurtured by the game point to a kind of group creativity that fosters social connection and understanding of consequence outside of the game. We conclude with thoughts on future research.


deliberation, role-playing games, democracy, civic participation

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