Inviting Grief into Games: The Game Design Process as Personal Dialogue

Sabine Harrer, Henrik Schoenau-Fog

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/conference proceedingArticle in proceedingResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This paper investigates how designers might initiate a dialogue with underrepresented groups, infusing design with individuals’ personal stories and imaginations. It does so alongside the example of Jocoi, a game aiming at mediating the experience of loss and grief over a dead baby. Apart from being a taboo subject in general, there is no explanation for the absence of this fairly common experience in games. Drawing on the emotional worlds and tastes of individuals identifying as bereft parents, Jocoi involved a collaboration with an Austrian self-help group for affected parents. The stories of four informants then served as an initial orientation point marking out the direction of our ensuing game design process. Working out central themes, needs and concerns conveyed by the group, the aim was to addresses some of their emotional challenges appropriately through a game. The paper first presents a rationale for the chosen method of collaboration. Most importantly, we embrace a paradigmatic shift from game design as the production of meaning and emotion towards game design as facilitation or mediation. The second section will zoom in to the concrete tools and stages we used in our our facilitation process with Jocoi. It will trace key moments in moving from kick-off workshop to the final game. Finally, the ensuing discussion will highlight learnings for a broader understanding of introducing diversity into games. The question of appropriateness seems to be of particular importance for game designers. It is a matter of maintaining a balance between active listening and autonomous creative practice. The project is part of an ongoing PhD project on loss and grief in games.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of DiGRA 2015 : Diversity of play: Games - Cultures - Identities
Number of pages15
PublisherDigital Games Research Association
Publication date15 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2015
EventDiGRA 2015 : Diversity of Play - Games, Cultures, Identities - Leuphana University Lüneburg., Lüneburg, Germany
Duration: 14 May 201517 May 2015


ConferenceDiGRA 2015
LocationLeuphana University Lüneburg.


Dive into the research topics of 'Inviting Grief into Games: The Game Design Process as Personal Dialogue'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this