Intercultural CompetenceKnowledge of various approaches towards raising awarenessReflecting and using diverse methods and ways to increase self-awarenessUnderstands various approaches towards raising awareness

The Game of Culture

As an integral part of many people’s childhood, youth and even adulthood, video games have helped players to develop more than good hand-eye coordination. Many video games have taught (those who have played them) gamers about friendship, love and war. Video games can contain valuable life lessons that stay with someone years after they shelve the discs. In this article, I will use some of these lessons and link them with the intercultural context in an attempt to use the problem-solving methods that gamers use in gaming, to solve cultural and intercultural problems and issues.

Why did I choose this tool?

Being a gamer myself, I see the correlation between my gaming experiences and my intercultural experiences, and how the below-mentioned principles actually apply to both. I have overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles in my life by applying these principles and I hope they can help you as well regardless of whether or not you are a gamer. 

How does this apply to being a trainer?

As trainers we are always facing different challenges on different levels, similar to gaming, except that in real life, the stakes are higher. Other people’s emotions and learning possibilities are in our hands, and we are always in need to change, adapt, get better and stronger in order to reach the next level. Intercultural issues can sometimes feel very heavy, difficult and overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If we change our perception and start seeing the training session as a game, then the obstacles we are going to face will look more like challenges that will take us to the next level.

Main content:

Usually, people retract from situations where it becomes overwhelming to understand or expand cultural values. This might be an instinct, since individuals usually live in their own culture and they are rarely put in situations where they are forced to expand their perceptions. Therefore, it may seem like an unnecessary effort that can be avoided.

However, if we link this to the concept of gaming, when a player is faced with a difficult level or a boss fight, they try again many times with different approaches until they find their way to succeed. When they do, they get the satisfying sense of self-worth and achievement in addition to other positive feelings. The same can be said in regard to exploring new cultural values and concepts.

Nothing is too big to tackle

The frequency of cultural clashes is increasing, which calls for a stand just like in the game. In their article, Hamdani and Markus (2019) explain how psychologists are usually trained to focus on the individual levels, and they narrow their focus on changing people’s mindsets, without fully considering how these micro- or meso-level changes might be blocked, rather than supported by the larger institutional and social forces at play. On the other hand, practitioners and policymakers often focus on macro-level social and institutional factors and do not pay enough attention to the influence these changes could potentially have on an individual level and also on interpersonal interactions. Both, psychologists and practitioners, can also overlook the individuals’ power to change their cultures in bottom-up ways, through their actions. They focus on how cultures shape people, rather than how people shape their cultures.

In the seventh title in a game series called “final fantasy”, a player must save the world! The game teaches the players of the importance of taking a stand and fighting for the right reasons, even in the face of defeat (RONCERO MENENDEZ, 2013). Other similar games revolve around “fighting the good fight” and “making a stand for what we believe in”, overcoming hits, setbacks, and overwhelming odds. Much like the cultural clashes nowadays, which seem very overwhelming to try and do something about them. You can even say that if you are doing something about it, you are helping to save the world!

Determination is key

This point links back and builds on the previous one. If you find something that you strongly believe in and you are willing to “fight” for it, then you will need a lot of determination in order to achieve the end result that you want.

“Games like “Legend of Zelda” teaches players that whether it’s powering through the many dungeons of Hyrule in the game or trying to complete an especially difficult assignment at work, you’re not going to accomplish it all in one day” (RONCERO MENENDEZ, 2013). That’s no reason to be discouraged, though — even Majora’s Mask takes a full three days to be completed. The key to getting through it all is to remain steadfast and keep moving forward, no matter the difficulties. Procrastination certainly doesn’t help; it will still be waiting right where you left off. If you’re determined to make it through, there’s the sweet satisfaction of accomplishment and personal growth awaiting you and that doesn’t apply only in the game.

Confront your problems

There’s nothing worse than being in denial — well, other than being stuck in a malevolent town full of monsters. Big issues don’t go away on their own, and it’s no fun going through life with them constantly hanging over your head. Silent Hill 2 protagonist, James, spends the majority of the game denying that he murdered his wife, and the town of Silent Hill feeds on his guilt and grief. Tackling the situation isn’t always the easiest solution, but it’s more effective than denying its existence and letting it slowly consume you. Try to move on and make amends.

The example in Silent Hill might be a bit extreme, but the concepts are perfectly sound when it comes to confronting our own problems. A lot of people ignore problems and hope that they will disappear or resolve on their own. A friend told me that this is the Irish way to deal with problems, but similar behavior can be found in different parts of the world. Cultural context is no different, a lot of the issues might be ignored hoping that they will disappear, only to grow bigger and cause more problems with time. The only way to prevent it, is to face it and address it, head-on, just like James did in Silent Hill.

Things are not always what they seem

(conserving your energy and making do with what you have))) from probably one of the most famous first-person shooter games “Call of Duty”, and maybe from every single war and combat simulator and first-person shooter game ever produced. Whether it’s ammo and healing items or tissues and water, it’s important to know what’s necessary to get through the day — especially when you’re down to your last granola bar and you’ve got a nine-hour bus trip ahead of you. Being well-prepared goes beyond supplies; it’s vital to learn how to use your environment to your advantage, to find the best tool for the job … and to hide your reserves of cheese puffs so your co-workers will never find them (RONCERO MENENDEZ, 2013).

Similarly, when engaging or taking an action in the context of intercultural issues, most cases are long-term. Meaning that it will be a while before you start seeing some results or progress (if at all). Therefore, it is important to know how to manage your reserves of energy and will to keep yourself going. Knowing how and when to act might not always be clear, but this tool can help you to approach intercultural issues from a different angle and to consider the resources you have, like: time, energy, money, etc.

Reflection questions:

What aspects of the intercultural competence or intercultural interactions seem too overwhelming or difficult for me?

How can I apply the above-mentioned strategies to the problem I am facing?

  • Nothing is too big to tackle
  • Determination is key
  • Confront your problems
  • Things are not always as they seem

Do I spend a lot of time thinking, talking or theorizing about intercultural issues when I could be actually doing something about it, and be more active instead of passive “player” in the game of cultures?

What would change if I saw intercultural issues as a game to be won rather then an insurmountable challenge?

Author of the article: Aws Sabah Gheni Al-Adhami

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Editor: Leilani van Rheenen

has been active in youth work, training and coaching since 2008. Her specialty is emotional intelligence, emotional fitness, since it is the primary ingredient in competences such as inter-cultural competence, learning to learn, cooperating successfully in teams, etc. Leilani’s contribution will combine the information and methods she has created with the vast array of tried and tested materials available. Leilani has developed herself as a trainer from the Salto training for trainers, but also from renowned coaches and authors, and adapted methods learned from these sources to meet the needs of youth workers.

Click here to read more about Leilani van Rheenen

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Hamedani, M. Y., & Markus, H. R. (2019, April). Understanding Culture Clashes and Catalyzing Change: A Culture Cycle Approach. Frontiers in Psychology. From https://www.frontiersin.orgRONCERO MENENDEZ, S. (2013, 10). 9 Valuable Life Lessons We Learned From Gaming. From

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