Serious Games

Serious Games: Socially Engaged Art Practice within the Criminal Justice System

Using the notion of play to develop an outward facing research base at the centre of an important and unique dialogue between the cultural, educational and campaigning sectors.

This collaborative and interdisciplinary body of work seeks to reveal new and progressive ways of understanding criminologically significant phenomena through the medium of 'play'.

The Artivism Research Group seeks to explore the potential of Socially Engaged Art (SEA) practice for criminological inquiry and aims to develop new ways of understanding and challenging problems in the criminal justice system today.

Building on the core elements of this type of artistic practice, this work employs participatory methodologies in the production of works and places individuals and communities at the centre of the collaborative creative process.

Project 1: Probationary: The Game of Life on Licence

The video above features a playlist of videos about Probationary.

A pilot project between The Centre for the Study of Crime, Criminalisation, and Social Exclusion (CCSE), the Foundation for Creative Technology (FACT), and the Howard League for Penal Reform.

This project seeks to explore the ways in which knowledge exchange via the medium of art can lead to a different perspective on individuals’ lived-experience of the criminal justice system. This project provided a space to test an ‘alignment model’ whereby the academics were proactively engaged in identifying the focus of the project, co-developing the artist brief, appointing the artist/s, and contributing to the production and dissemination activities.

Produced through workshops with men on licence, Probationary: The Game of Life on Licence explores the lived experience of being on probation. Taking the form of a board game, Probationary takes its players on a journey through the eyes of four playable characters as they negate the complexities of the probation process.

Board games, from Monopoly to the Game of Life, contain within them the structures and values of the society in which they are produced, presenting back to us the world in which we live. Taking this as a starting point, Probationary reflects real experiences of being subject to the criminal justice system and presents us with an opportunity to collectively play, understand and discuss such systems within our contemporary society.

The game enables players to begin to understand the experience of those on licence to probation and to learn more about how the current probation system operates. The game provides a ‘view from below’ and in doing so, it not only gives voice to those experiencing life on licence, but enables players to follow their journey and share their experiences. Through the medium of play, the game seeks to change attitudes about probation and, ultimately, contribute to the process of changing policy.

Probationary is an artwork that raises important questions about the criminal justice system but also asks us to think about the wider potential of socially engaged arts practice as a means to explore the lived experience of the criminal justice system. The ultimate aim of the project is to explore the potential of this model of collaborative working to campaigns for penal reform.

As an artivist project, the findings are encapsulated within the game and dissemination has to come primarily through play. The project team are currently engaged in dissemination activities that seek to bring Probationary to diverse audiences within artistic, educational, criminal justice, and campaign sectors.

The games are not available for sale, but the team are interested to hear from anyone with an interest in the project.

Related links:

Probationary: The Game of Life on Licence (2017) Hwa Young Jung with Dave, John, Mark, Mick, Nick, Patrick. Commissioned and produced by FACT, researched by Liverpool John Moores University. Image: Dan Burns