CLIENT FOCUS: How the Austrian Lotteries is Using Games to Welcome Immigrants and Refugees

Imagine, for a moment, that you’re a Syrian refugee, and you’ve just arrived in the Austrian capital of Vienna. The experience is overwhelming. You want to fit in, but you know little of this country’s culture or its customs, and you’re not even sure where you’re supposed to start learning them. You might not even speak a word of German. What’s “normal” here? What’s an appropriate way to ask someone for assistance? Most of all, how are you supposed to begin the difficult task of acclimating to life in your new home?

That’s the question that inspired No Kangaroos in Austria, a new game designed by Vienna-based developer Sproing and funded by the Austrian Lotteries. Since its inception in the 1980s, the Austrian Lotteries has been engaged in sponsoring entertainment projects that promote the social good. With No Kangaroos in Austria, though, the Austrian Lotteries wanted to try something different.

“We didn’t just want to give money to projects, but do our own project,” explained Melanie Bukovski, a community manager at Austrian Lotteries. And while immigration is a controversial topic in Austria, it’s also a chance to demonstrate the positive impact that a game like No Kangaroos in Austria can have on society and its most vulnerable groups.

In No Kangaroos in Austria, the player is confronted with typical situations in Austrian life, like going to a café or asking for directions. By choosing an action and viewing the outcome, the player learns to navigate different environments, while learning how to handle everyday interactions.

From its inception, No Kangaroos in Austria has been a collaborative project. The development team began by listening carefully to immigrants’ needs to ensure that the game would serve them effectively. “We had a workshop with two street workers who came from Afghanistan,” Bukovski explains. “They really helped us figure out what they need, which shaped what happens in the game.”

As it turns out, mobile phones are an ideal medium for a game like No Kangaroos in Austria. Because Austria has the cheapest prices for mobile phones and service in Europe, most immigrants in the country have access to a mobile device.

Though the game is targeted at Austria’s growing immigrant population, Bukovski stresses that No Kangaroos in Austria can be helpful to Austrian citizens as well. “It can broaden the horizons of people in Austria,” she explains. “It can get them to ask, ‘what do other people need?’ or ‘Why do they not know about this or that’?”

Once No Kangaroos in Austria released, the Austrian Lotteries plans to follow up with players, as well as immigration officers who oversee immigrants’ transition into living in Austria, in order to gauge the game’s effectiveness.

No Kangaroos in Austria is currently in development and is expected to be released as a free download in Austria in February 2018.

Disclaimer: The Austrian Lotteries has been a client of Power Play since April 2016. Power Play proposed the idea for this game and has served as an executive advisor since its inception.

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