Learning Through Gaming: The Migrants’ Chronicles

Thanks to €500,000 in funding, LU’s educational role play game starts development of beta version

Students in Luxembourg can soon experience what life was like for Luxembourgish migrants relocating to the United States in 1892. The Migrants’ Chronicles, a historical role play game spearheaded by the University of Luxembourg, uses serious gaming to teach history and spark empathy for migrants of yesterday and today.

A collaboration between the University, Cologne Game Lab in Germany & Carleton College in the US, the project is entering into beta development after reaching €500,000 in funding thanks to a significant contribution from the Oeuvre Nationale de Secours Grande Duchesse Charlotte and funding from the University of Luxembourg, Ministry of Education and Digital Luxembourg’s Innovative Initiatives.

Acquiring funding can be particularly challenging for game-based initiatives since gaming is rarely recognized as research. Serious gaming derives its purpose from outside of pure entertainment. In this case, The Migrants’ Chronicles 1892 uses a familiar gaming format to engage and immerse students in order to teach history and spark empathy. 

"We’re focusing on playability. It’s not just translating lessons into content.”

“I teach history at the University and I have a class on history for first semester students. I always find they know a lot about history, but it doesn’t come from books, ” explained Dr. Marie-Paule Jungblut, The Migrants’ Chronicles project lead and University of Luxembourg professor. “Before teaching, I was involved with history exhibitions where I learned that experience is the most important part of an exhibition. I transferred that knowledge to the development of games.”

With these observations, Dr. Jungblut decided to develop an immersive role play game to help teach history that 11–13-year-old students would retain.

The game lets students play as three possible characters: a widow with young children, a wine-growing family from the Moselle or a craftsman from the North. As they journey to the US they are forced to make difficult decisions, each with significant consequences.

“I knew it would have to be similar to the games that young people play today in their leisure time, ” she explained. “Immersive role play games are a great way to learn. We’re focusing on playability. It’s not just translating lessons into content. First, we want to create an attractive game that they will have fun playing.”

Within the context of schools and museums, gaming is an effective way to teach history and, importantly, life skills. Its immersive nature triggers genuine empathy as students identify with the roles they are playing.

“That is our main objective: to teach via empathy so that students understand the decisions people had to make 1892 and also better understand the decisions people are forced to make today, ” Dr. Jungblut added.

The final version of The Migrants’ Chronicles 1892 is scheduled for a summer 2023 launch and will be available for free in Luxembourgish and English.

Although this edition focuses on Luxembourg-to-US emigration in the 1800s, the open source game template leaves room for endless storytelling. The team has no plans to stop any time soon, and already has its sights set on a second edition centered on today’s migrations from the Middle East to Europe.

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