Game Changers

Competition Details


by Christian John

Since the invasion of the Iraq war in 2003, violence and chaos have ravaged families and communities throughout the country. Children are the most vulnerable and suffer most from the effects of trauma, lack of education and a loss if identity.

Tessera is an educational game that attempts to contribute solutions to these problems. Its mission is to provide a routine of problem solving, encourage the communication of personal experiences, and rejuvenate a sense of identity and cultural pride.

The the problem will be addressed in three ways:

1. Utilizing a cognitive method of learning, children can better understand broad problem solving skills that assist them later with more specific educational exercises. In addition to academic settings, problem-solving skills can be used in everyday situations.

2. A key component of trauma therapy is communication. For children to be able to understand their experiences and foster resilience, an intervention needs to take place. Helping children express their own personal narratives can assist in the healing process.

3. Identity is a problem that affects anyone who is displaced from his or her home and/or nation. Especially for immigrants to a host country, holding on to a sense of your own culture and heritage while assimilating into new surroundings can be difficult.

Tessera is a multi-player game designed for refugee children living in Iraq, Jordan and Syria. Participants take turns connecting the puzzle pieces through clues of color and shape.

The words on top of the pieces are meant to encourage the the discussion of personal history(ie. father, sister, school, community and nation).The three elements of the design proposal are as follows:

1. Assist children in developing unique problem solving skills through cognitive learning.

2. Encourage communication as a means for healing the wounds of trauma and grief.

3. Foster community participation as a way of creating a new identity for Iraqi refugees. Recall cultural and historical highlights as a means for maintaining national heritage and pride.

An essential portion of this project was my relationship with The International Rescue Committee “a critical global network...working together [to] provide access to safety, sanctuary, and sustainable change for millions of people whose lives have been shattered by violence and oppression.”1


1. IRC, “Iraqi Refugees”;;accessed Feb 2008.

-Christian John