GameOn: Youth Exchange

GameOn Erasmus+ Youth Exchange

July 27 – August 3, 2019,  Poland

27.07 – 03.08 was an intensive week for a group of 31 young adventure-seekers from Poland, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Latvia, and Romania. In their search for a quest to find out more about games and gamification, they discovered a new one on each day of the exchange. Basia Berdowska was one of the lucky ones who got to experience it all, here is her report on the youth exchange.

On day one we faced what always seems like the biggest challenge at the beginning of a new adventure – learning the names of the group. Team-building activities and sightseeing Gdańsk from the unusual perspective of a kayaking trip had us all excited about the whole week and the people we were going to share this experience with.

After a day outdoors we brought it in on the second day. We played our first edu-LARP (educational life-action roleplaying game), hosted by Agata Świstak, and got to look for hidden roleplaying skills. With the game finished it was time to move on and change venue. From Gdańsk we took a train to Iława and travelled further to Kacze Bagno in Kurzętnik. The place was different from what we have all become accustomed to in our everyday lives – being surrounded by nature, sleeping in a common dormitory with 30 people asleep nearby, gathering for a Circle every time we heard ABBA’s Mamma Mia playing.

Day three presented us more opportunities to play out a scenario we wouldn’t normally take part in. First, Pracownia Gier Szkoleniowych turned us into teams of beehives and meadows in a training game about communication and inter-team coordination. Afterwards, we polished up the fantastical characters we have created the night before and assumed their identities for a LARP session.

The great outdoors called again the following day and we could not resist its call. Hunting clues and solving riddles was a welcomed change of pace between days of more stationary, indoor games.

If any of us had thought that the previous days had been intense, day five proved them wrong. Also known as RPG (roleplaying games) Day, via guidance of Wojciech Rzadek, it challenged us to create stories and characters that engage and evoke emotions. In the evening, we tested the theory in practice – by playing our own RPG sessions.

Day five was nothing short of a creativity relay and day six was there to pick up the baton. After an introduction to board game design it was time for the Game Jam with Rebel’s Maciej Jesionowski. We had 20 hours to design and test our own board game. Sparks flied, ideas arose and died, slowly or rather unexpectedly our games took physical shape. Now we are able to not only say that we have created our own board games but that we have achieved it in less than a day.

Right after breakfast on the last day we have presented our games. Our very cool games, to be precise. Then, we took the time to reflect upon the exchange – what we have learned, how we can use it in our personal lives and in our work. The reflections brought us to the unavoidable realization – Game On really had come to an end. I wasn’t aware of how used to living this experience I have become until I remembered we had been perfect strangers just a week before. At that moment I felt like we have known each other and played together for ages.

Only talking about the games we played, though the core of the exchange, would not encompass the whole experience. You would miss out on the smiles, the laughs, the positive vibes all around. The sheer number of kind words, hugs, and jokes we shared, the hours we spent with beautiful music, they could begin to paint the full picture of the exchange.

As all good things must come to an end, so does Game On. Or does it? While we are not physically together – playing, learning, growing next to each other – I am certain this exchange will live on in us, in our relationships, in the way we work and play for long time to come.

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