What is Fair Play?

Fair Play provides players with the opportunity to take the perspective of Jamal Davis, a Black graduate student on his way to becoming a renowned professor. In this game, players experience racial bias during interactions with other characters, as well as in the virtual environment. As Jamal, the road to success involves navigating the academic world; as a Black student, bias can steer you off of a successful path. Winning in Fair Play involves learning when and how to name biases. While many will succeed in Fair Play, the true winners are those that learn the reality of bias.

Evolution of Fair Play and the Fair Play Workshop

Led by Dr. Molly Carnes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Fair Play was designed as a learning tool to provide an opportunity to see the graduate school journey through the eyes of a Black student (Virtual Games for STEMM Faculty to Break the Bias Habit, DP4 GM096822-01; 2010-2014). Fair Play represents a true-to-life simulation of the complex social world for a graduate student in academia. In the game, the player takes on the role of Jamal Davis, a Black graduate student on his way to becoming a renowned professor.  As Jamal, you will find an advisor, secure funding, establish social networks, publish papers, and attend conferences. In addition to recreating the graduate experience, Fair Play presents real-life examples of bias concepts such as microaggressions, color-blind racial attitudes, tokenism and others. The game involves taking on the challenges of a graduate student while also learning when, how or if to name biases.

With the success of the Fair Play game, Dr. Christine Pribbenow, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, developed the Fair Play Workshop (Do You Play Fair? A Workshop About Bias in Academia, NIH-R25GM114002, 2015-2021). The workshop was designed to highlight many of the obstacles that can prevent minorities from excelling in post-graduate education, increase awareness of different types of racial bias, and teach bias-reducing strategies.

Fair Play for Graduate Students and Postdocs

In 2020, Dr. Pribbenow received additional funding from the NIH to develop The Fair Play Workshop for Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scientists and additional programming to support participants such as webinars and affinity groups (Fair Play: Bias Literacy and Resiliency Training to Empower the Future Biomedical Workforce, NIH-2R25GM114002, 2020-2025). The workshop centers on providing STEMM graduate students and postdoctoral scientists with strategies to empower them to persist in their field of study. The workshop is composed of three modules of learning. The first module of the workshop provides a brief outline of the history of race, an overview of implicit bias, and discusses the impacts of implicit bias in academia. The workshop then moves to gameplay inviting participants to play the Fair Play Game. After gameplay, facilitators lead participants in a discussion and debrief around their experiences in the game and provide an overview of the different types of racial bias. The final module of the workshop explores strategies to empower graduate students and postdoctoral scientists to persist in their field and discusses bias intervention strategies.

Research Supporting the Development of Fair Play

Although most people have personal values that oppose prejudice, we all grow up in a culture replete with stereotypes and biased representations of members of minority groups. These stereotypes are learned at a young age, and create automatic bias that can affect our behavior, even when our conscious values oppose bias (Devine, 1989).

Becoming aware of our potential to behave in unintentionally biased ways is the first step to overcoming these implicit biases. If we are aware that we may have unintentionally activated bias, we can be mindful of situations in which this bias can occur, and make sure we behave in ways that are consistent with our personal values that oppose prejudice (Carnes et al., 2012, 2015; Devine et al., 2012).

Members of stigmatized groups frequently report microaggressions — commonplace daily indignities that are often unintentional, but nevertheless have negative effects on those targeted by them (Sue et al., 2007). Even if the perpetrator of a microaggression has no ill intentions, the effect on the target can be devastating, especially given that these microaggressions are so common, and they add up, leading to increased anxiety and even depression (Cox et al., 2012).

Using Fair Play as a learning tool provides the opportunity to see the graduate school journey through the eyes of a Black student, our Fair Play Workshop highlights many of the obstacles that sometimes prevent minorities from excelling in post-graduate education. The workshop increases awareness about different sorts of microaggressions and teaches techniques for overcoming them within oneself and addressing them in others. This workshop can help us all in our goals to reduce unintentional biases within ourselves and promote excellence in people of all backgrounds.

Fair Play is based on principles drawn from research and other published works. Some of the key arguments for its approach are on our Resources page, along with other papers, if you are interested in learning more about these topics.