Every year 53% of the low-income households in Washington face at least one civil legal problem without adequate legal assistance. Problems can range from predatory lending to foreclosure to various kinds of debt. There are many legal advocates helping those in need, however, due to the difference in numbers, not everyone gets the help they need. This can be described as the access to justice gap in America.

The gap in unmet legal services is much more complicated than a shortage of legal aid attorneys. The “Civil Legal Needs and Public Legal Understanding” study conducted by Professor Rebecca Sandefur revealed that many Americans do not understand how to identify the legal dimensions of the problems they face. Instead of seeking legal help, the respondents in her study understood their legal issues as a social problem, a moral problem, a private problem, or bad luck in some situations. Therefore, the legal profession must seek methods to educate the general public on how to navigate and identify the symptoms of their legal issues.


A group of Washington State attorneys and technologist have responded to this call and believes gamification can be used to identify methods of increasing online engagement between the public and the legal profession for the purpose of increasing access to justice. They are hosting a Social Justice Game Jam, one of the first game jams aimed at creating games that address this problem. This event will bring together game developers and legal advocates to collaborate and create games that either directly teaches skills or educate the public about current issues.

Gamification can be described as the use of game design, techniques and elements in non-game contexts. The gamification elements will be familiar to most readers: points, quests, levels of achievement and badges. From Snapchat to your common airline rewards miles, companies have drawn us in to become repeat users through a variety different gamification techniques. The Social Justice Game Jam is seeking games that in some way promote awareness of or address some of the civil justice issues. The event will be held at The Living Computer Museum on February 17 at 6:00pm.