Using Gaming to Build Community Connections: Dot’s Home
by Janay Pope
Ever since I could remember, there was always something to do in Detroit with my family. From spending time by the river, I enjoyed festivals like River Days, auto shows, Fourth of July fireworks, and the Eastern Market every weekend to enjoy breakfast with my parents. When people think of Detroit, some everyday things that come to mind are Motown or Motor City. Many focus on the downtown area, yet the city is much bigger than the new Campus Martius. As the downtown area grows into a fast-paced shopping and tech hub, the rest of the city is not receiving the same love.
My family has been in Detroit for generations and has seen how the city has changed, yet there was not much in the mainstream media about how different things were when my great-grandmother and grandma were growing up. Now, through different forms of media: film, art, and gaming, Detroit’s history is making its way to people not just outside the city but throughout the state of Michigan.
Games for Change is an organization that facilitates communities of gaming creators and also hosts multiple events annually. In 2022, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) helped housing justice organizers, Weathered Sweater and Rise Home Stories Project compete in the Games for Change Festival. Their forward-thinking video game Dot’s Home was recognized for its narrative-driven interactive component and won awards for best impact and for being the best civic game.
Dot’s Home is an interactive narrative-driven video game that can be played via desktop or mobile devices. It follows a young African American woman who lives with her grandmother and can time travel to the past with their family house key. Through her journey, players get to decide her path as she learns about the housing crisis and disparities that took place over the years in her hometown, Detroit, Michigan. Dot meets family members from the past, including her grandmother, and players learn about the different challenges for each generation, from redlining to the Detroit riots and gentrification. The game is profound with its use of current cultural references and its ability to rope in the past entertainingly, so players stay engaged throughout the storyline. Not to mention it is fun and relaxing to play when there is down time, and you want to learn something new!
Ready. Set. Play!
Detroit and many similar places continue to face housing crises today. There are also so many amazing creatives in the tech world working on intersecting education and video gaming. Dot’s Home may have won the award, but plenty of interactive games deserve their flowers. Below are some honorable mentions from the Games for Change organization that resonated with me or that I found to also be impactful in the way Dot’s Home has:
- Svoboda 1945: Liberation – Charles Games
- Blackhaven – Historiated Games
- MadeVR – Take me to the end of the Assembly Line from Singing Cicadas
To learn more about the advancements of gaming and how it is working to connect with communities, be sure to check out Games for Change.
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