Sibel’s Journey: Educational game about identity, sexuality and self-assertion

What does “Pride” actually mean and what are the words “LGBTQIA+” made up of? Teens and adults can learn with the point-and-click adventure “Sibel’s Journey” for mobile devices.

The players are taken on a trip to Berlin, where 13-year-old Sibel is visiting family and friends. As she converses with friends, family and strangers, she learns more and more about different gender identities and how to talk about them sensitively or insensitively.

Players get a glimpse of Sibel’s smartphone as the story progresses. Chats with the protagonists can be read and continued there, but over time definitions of terms you have become familiar with or games that deepen the topic are also collected there.

How do I see myself? How do others see me and how or who do I actually want to be? Questions that young people ask when they are finding their identity are dealt with very openly in the game.

(Bild: Food for Thought Media)

Sibel cannot be moved completely freely through the Berlin scenery either. Players are guided with her through a chronologically told story with different scenarios. If tasks, mini-games or conversations are not completed in these scenes, the gameplay will not continue. Sibel’s Journey is like an interactive comic.

Everything the characters say is also included as an audio track. Scenes are accompanied by suitable soundscapes.

The game is set with its protagonists in a colorfully mixed milieu and, due to the origin of Sibel’s family, also deals with Pride festivals in Turkey, especially Istanbul. At this point, however, it omits the major cultural tensions and counter-movements on the ground. Rather, it focuses on depicting people who are as open and positive about and tolerant of different gender identities as possible. Some of the conversations are repetitive in their content.

Smaller games are integrated into the game, for example this concept puzzle.

(Bild: Food for Thought Media)

Hostilities and dangers for people who identify themselves with the LGBTQIA+ community and who are not just “allys” (allies) are also portrayed in a rather indirect way. However, when it comes to the issue of “consensus” (agreement), the confrontation becomes more direct. Players experience how Sibel is harassed by an online contact and how she can assert herself in the confrontation.

Here one of the most important concepts of the game becomes very clear: it negotiates conflicts, it tries to find and present a language that can help people to be able to stand by themselves and their personal boundaries. It thus offers instructions for sensitive communication and demonstrates a language for self-determination.

Sibel has met a boy online who wants to urge her on a date. Sibel doesn’t know how to react to his demands and accusations. NPCs support them in not allowing encroaching behavior.

(Bild: Food for Thought Media)

The educational game was developed by the Berlin collective “Food for Thought Media”, which was founded in 2019. It was financed by crowdfunding and with a grant from the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg.

According to the creators, Sibel’s Journey is aimed at teachers and people in youth work, among others, who can book workshops so that the learning game can be used in the classroom or in their free time. The workshops are associated with costs, but the game would be free for students in this context. In addition, there should be the opportunity to train teachers or parents to become coaches in order to be able to offer the associated workshop on an ongoing basis.

Sibel’s Journey is intended for young people in grades six to ten (11-15 years). The game is available in German, English and Turkish. In the Google and Apple app stores, 5.99 euros are called for. It was released to general public on April 18, 2023. Sibel’s Journey was made available to Heise online for testing free of charge.


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