I want to connect with individuals in the gaming industry who would have an interest in using games to empower the public to prevent and solve their own legal problems. I have experience in the legal profession as a legal tech entreprenuer (sold my company, virtual law office tech in 2009), author, speaker, and law school professor. My focus is on using tech to increase access to justice in the States. Right now I am developing an idea for how a game could be used in a preventative way to teach the public about their rights and the law before the legal problems occur. Most law-related games that I can find focus on educating law students about how to practice or they are role playing games for school age children about civics and the legal process. I have something very different in mind. If anyone is interested in further discussion or knows of other individuals who are interested in this space, please add a note. Thanks!
There is a minigame in Runescape in which cases must be argued in a court of law. The player must choose the role of defense or prosecution in advance, and then evaluate evidence, question or cross-examine witnesses, and emphasize the evidence which supports their position in the adversarial process, including a closing argument. While hardly perfect, I think such an approach could be adapted easily to your needs. Would you like me to collaborate with you, and do you feel comfortable with using such an approach? I hope you meet with great success in any case, as your project seems worthy indeed!
Can you give me more details about a preventative approach that might help me suggest a more suitable "gamification"? I'm fairly well versed in games, and there might be analogies that cover entirely different content, but have the correct game dynamics (underlying form, rule-set, mathematical and categorical relationships). I'd still like to help if I can.
Thank you, Phillip. By preventive, I mean that the game should teach the player about aspects of the law that will protect the player and his or her family before something bad happens. So for example, many people need to have drafted a Will, but most do not. As a legal document, the provisions in a Will can name guardians for children in case the parents die, provide for your pets and make sure they end up with a caregiver, protect family assets by making sure that your possessions end up in the hands of the people you want them to, make donations to charities, etc. For many same-sex couples, the drafting of these documents is also a way to provide legal protections in states that do not provide them. That is just an example, but the game play should accomplish two things: 1) teach the player about the importance of the legal issues at stake, and 2) empower the player to know what they need to have in that legal document to protect themselves and their families. If you have any suggestions based on your experience, I would be interested in hearing how these concepts might translate into game dynamics. My fear is that a "teaching" game like this would need to be largely text-based, but there may be ways to express these in graphical representation and game play that is fun and engaging.
Well, I still believe the approach that I gave above fits the bill. If a Will is not set up beforehand, how will the proceedings likely go? If the role-playing makes it clear to the players that the lack of a Will results in other parties having to guess at the most desirable outcome, adherence to codes and precedents, etc., they may end the play highly motivated to have a Will drawn up. Try and teach a few of the principles of how a Will is drawn up, and if the players are in a rush, role-play its reception and interpretation. As a proposed Will is drawn up, continue to play out the proceedings, either allowing a change-by-change "do-over" or the whole shebang to demonstrate major points, or to do a final check to assure that all the terms are satisfactory.
This role-playing can't *guarantee* that the Will will actually be handled that way, but it surely is an improvement over no Will, or a poorly written one. :D
I'm afraid that the nature of the material (Law), doesn't make it easy to come up with a numerical or graphical approach that doesn't risk trivializing or even obscuring the concepts. Dramatic role-playing may accomplish this fairly easily. If you're asking for a way to make this a computer program, it would have to be fairly sophisticated, but a "Judge" and several lawyers could be programmed with standard courtroom expectations and arguments, and then made to react to the relevant input from players. By flashing back and forth through time, players would object "ghost mode" to the "mangled" interpretation of their Will, and then go back in time and change its terms with their counsel, and then repeat until it comes out right. This program would be simplistic and difficult in comparison to live players, but still might work.
Thank you for the detailed response, Phillip. I agree that because of the subject matter I'll have to stick with simplifying concepts to teach basics and hopefully direct them to other resources for more complex legal needs. That said, I guess I'm putting engagement above education in the design. I've retained a designer to come up with a game design doc for me to work with. This is all a learning experience for me, but I'm determined to see if rather than using simulations or web advisers to teach people about the law, we can't make it fun to learn and engage them in knowing what to do before they are at the point where they need a simulation or walkthrough of the court process.I'd even like to avoid having lawyers or judges in the game just because by the time you've got them in the picture, you've already got a legal problem that's become serious. Role playing is the best way to add the emotional connection to the subject matter just perhaps in another setting. Thanks again for your interest and I'll keep you posted because I'm sure other issues are going to come up!
I am kind of stuck on the role-playing, aren't I ? :) Let me see what you come up with in terms of other methodologies, when you're ready. I can't personally imagine what it will look like, and that's a weakness of mine I could make huge gains on. Thanks.