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ERIC Number: ED543350
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Oct
Pages: 50
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
Evaluation of Breakthrough's "America 2049" Game
Diamond, James; Brunner, Cornelia
Education Development Center, Inc
Breakthrough, a global human rights organization, produced "America 2049," an alternate-reality game set in a dystopian future in which the United States is on the verge of breaking apart because of an inability to tolerate diversity and promote human rights. During the 12-week game launch, players uncovered artifacts related to the persistent struggle for human rights in American history, while also watching an unfolding narrative about oppression and the loss of human rights in the future. Players could decide whether to support the activities of "Divided We Fall," a group dedicated to preserving national unity, or the "Council on American Heritage," an organization pushing for dissolution. By using a narrative-driven, episodic game (the narrative was released in weekly installments during the 12-week launch), Breakthrough engaged game players on human rights issues and instances of social injustice in a different way. Rather than simply telegraphing positions on issues, game play in "America 2049" permits some level of individual agency by enabling players to decide whether and how to align their in-game personas with opposing factions in the context of an unfolding drama. Based on personal or game-related goals, players can choose to support either side (pro- or anti-human rights) in the conflict without affecting their score. The goal was not to promote "good" or pro-human rights behavior during game play, but rather to encourage players to play with possibilities within a human rights-focused narrative and consider how societal choices about human rights could influence the future. To investigate the game's effectiveness as a tool to mobilize real-world action around the issues confronted in the game, Breakthrough engaged the Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) as an independent evaluator to evaluate the game. Two research questions framed the evaluation: (1) Do players indicate a willingness to reconsider issues or become active around them following game play? (And when they do indicate willingness, which aspects of the game do they say are influential?); and (2) Is there a relationship between the categories of "moral reasoning" players use in the game and their willingness to reconsider issues? Findings include: (1) 93% (97/104) of survey respondents described their political leanings toward the issues in the game as either "Very liberal," "Liberal," or "Moderate"; (2) 89% (48/54 comments) of the post-game survey comments about the game were positive; (3) 86% (89/104) of players who completed the follow-up survey indicated at least some willingness to become active at some point in the future on an issue they encountered in the game; (4) 58% (60/104) of respondents reported that they played serious games "Never" or "A few times a year"; (5) 47% (49/104) of the survey respondents cited one of two game features as most influential in prompting them to reconsider the issues: the game's overarching narrative and the specific experiences of the non-player characters; and (6) There is no discernible relationship between the specific choices a player makes during game play and her or his willingness to consider becoming active on issues (as indicated on the survey), nor is there a relationship between choices and a player's reported "play style". To continue to capitalize on players' positive experiences during the game launch, Breakthrough may wish to consider the following recommendations for future game development: (1) Consider introducing other game elements that might bring more players "into the fold" earlier; (2) Consider following up with players who did not persist; (3) Structure dialogues about human rights; and (4) Allow players to experience the consequences of game play choices. Appended are: (1) Choice-point rationales; (2) Follow-up survey text (originally online at; (3) List of levels and themes/issues addressed in the game narrative; and (4) Main characters, groups, and plot points in "America 2049". (Contains 7 figures and 4 tables.)
Education Development Center, Inc. 55 Chapel Street, Newton, MA 02458-1060. Tel: 617-969-7100; Fax: 617-969-5979; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Education Development Center, Inc.
Identifiers - Location: Australia; Brazil; Canada; Estonia; France; Germany; India; Indonesia; Pakistan; Romania; Singapore; United Arab Emirates; United Kingdom; United States