The role-playing game On the Run uses an unusual format to address the situation with forced migrants in the modern world. In the game, participants become refugees and undergo a series of test activities to experience what millions of people, forced to leave their homes to seek asylum elsewhere, live through every year. The game is run in different countries across the globe and will be held for the first time in Moscow this summer.
Created by the Danish teacher Steen Cnops Rasmussen in the early 1990s (originally called Youth on the Run), the game’s current version is an international project. Using an accessible format, On the Run explains what kind of difficulties occur on the journey of people seeking asylum as a result of military conflicts, environmental or social catastrophes in their home country. The format has gained recognition as a nontrivial way of discussing forced migration: rather than entertaining, the game allows participants to acquire this experience and transform it into a more informed response to the problem in the non-gameplay reality.
Participants are divided into teams, each representing a “family.” Forced to leave their home, the family-team travels to another country, applies for asylum there, and tries to integrate into the new society. Throughout the adaptation process, the players have to cope with various problems, such as bureaucracy, corruption, poor knowledge of the local language, and the prejudices of the host side. Only those who can overcome all obstacles will reach the final stage of the game and receive the coveted refugee status.
Involved in the preparation process are Garage’s staff and experts from the Russian Red Cross (St. Petersburg regional branch) who adapt the script, revise each of its stages and closely follow the gameplay progress on site. Specialists representing the UN Refugee Agency will also take part in the game, taking on the role of migration service inspectors. They will also deliver a lecture on forced migration at the end of the game that will help players assess their gained experience and draw a correlation with real life.