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Prestigious Horizon Europe grant for research project about cultural encounters, game-making and young European citizens

Associate Professor Rikke Toft Nørgård from the Danish School of Education at Aarhus University is the Coordinator of a new cross-European consortium. Research institutions, cultural organisations and creative industries are working together to develop new models for collaboration between culture, industry and research, as well as new formats for artistic and cultural game development, with young European cultural citizens. The project has received a Horizon Europe Research & Innovation grant from the EU Commission totalling DKK 22.87 million.

Rikke Toft Nørgård, Associate Professor at the Danish School of Education, Aarhus University

'EPIC-WE: Empowered Participation through Ideating Cultural Worlds and Environments: youth imagining, creating and exchanging cultural values and heritage through game-making'. That’s the full title of the new Horizon Europe research project.

The project involves a newly established consortium of 12 partners from Denmark, the Netherlands, Portugal, Italy and Belgium. The focus will be on investigating, developing and testing a new cultural model of collaboration and development for the way in which cultural organisations, creative industries and research institutions can meet and join forces with young cultural citizens to create games as, through and for culture across Europe.

“Games can of course be purely commercial products, whether they’re analogue or digital. But they are also a culture-bearing and culture-creating format which on par with paintings, ballet or film. As such, they can be used by young people to express themselves culturally, artistically and aesthetically. And cultural institutions can use games to empower young people’s participation in and relationship to culture – including young people who don’t necessarily see themselves as being part of European culture or cultural organisations,” says Associate Professor Rikke Toft Nørgård from the Danish School of Education at Aarhus University. She’s the leader of the new EPIC-WE project, which has received a grant from the Horizon Europe programme.

The arts and humanities of the future

Nørgård has a PhD in digital games, and for the past ten years she has been researching and developing formats for empowered participation within the arts and humanities at all levels inside and outside the educational sector. This has, among other things, involved designing participatory and co-operative models for the future humanities institutions, developing new educational designs and participation processes within the arts and humanities, and creating specific educational activities, resources and practices that support the future of arts and humanities.

EPIC-WE will develop new processes and formats for game development and game jams as a cultural form of participation. This will be done by developing ‘cultural game jams’ and ‘games as, through and for culture’, which will be tested in 12 game jams across three EPIC-WE hubs in Aarhus, Hilversum and Óbidos respectively.

The goal is to encourage empowered participation among young people as co-creators of European culture through the development of culture and games in close collaboration with cultural organisations and the creative industries.

“For the creative industries, this is a chance to co-develop the notion of games as a central form of culture by expanding the artistic/aesthetic expressive power, socio-cultural relevance and culture-bearing role that games and game-making possess. This is important for positioning the gaming industry as a central partner in and co-creator of European culture in all its forms. And to support more young people’s experience of empowered participation in the development of games – including young people who might not initially see a future for themselves in the gaming industry, or who don’t see themselves as a natural part of game culture,” says Nørgård.

Four main research questions

Nørgård underlines that EPIC-WE focuses on a new model of collaboration and society for the arts and humanities as a knowledge and innovation partner with culture and the creative industries, and new encounters between cultural organisations and the creative industries through joint cultural game-making processes and products.

“The project includes games as culture, game development through culture and game products for culture by examining four central research questions: How can games be understood as significant culture and cultural worlds in their own right while also shaping identities, society and our cultural world in beneficial or harmful ways?” Says Nørgård. And she adds:

“How can cultural organisations together with creative industries facilitate cultural game jams to enable young peoples widened and empowered participation in culture and cultural heritage through culture- and value-sensitive game-making? How can young people learn to see themselves as European game-makers and culture-creators by game jamming with each other, culture, cultural organisations and creative industries across Europe? And how can research institutions, cultural organisations and the creative industries join local and glocal partnerships with a view to empowering cultural innovation, value creation and collaboration across Europe?”

Cultural game jams

About 360 young people aged 16-25 will be taking through 12 cultural game jams carried out at cultural organisations in collaboration with creative industries. A game jam is a 48-hour game-making event, and the cultural game jams in Denmark is to be held at the ARoS art museum in Aarhus in collaboration with Filmby Aarhus as creative industry partner and Aarhus University as research partner.

The focus of the Danish culture hub are young people either interested in games and game development but not in art and culture, or interested in art and culture but not in games and game development. While the Dutch and Portuguese culture hubs will be focusing on other areas, explains Nørgård:

“In this project we develop and try out cultural encounters between young people and partners whose paths do not normally cross. For instance, in Denmark this might involve young game-making enthusiasts from e.g. Coding Pirates, residential gaming colleges or the GameIT College that will encounter and game jam with young art-making enthusiasts from e.g. residential art colleges, art evening schools or the Jutland Art Academy.”

She points out that when young people from the worlds of gaming and culture work together to develop ‘games through and for culture’, opportunities arise for new cultural relationships, collaborations and partnerships.

“Young people who are good at expressing themselves artistically, contributing to artistic/aesthetic processes or understanding and relating to art will be working alongside young people who are good at developing games, contributing to game development processes or understanding games as a form of expression and culture,” says Rikke Toft Nørgård.

Similar cultural encounters will take place with groups of young people in the Netherlands and Portugal, and there will be a total of four rounds of cultural game jams during the project both within and between the three culture hubs. During the course of the project the young people will develop more than 80 games through and for culture in collaboration with cultural organisations, research institutions and the creative industries.

These games through and for culture, as well as the collaborative models for conducting cultural game jams, design kits for each of the partners, as well as testimonials and case studies from the cultural game jams will all be published online during the project. This will give everyone access to and insight into EPIC-WE, as well as giving them the chance to use the project and be inspired by it, explains Nørgård.

“The 12 game jams will also result in European exhibitions of the created games. There will be online exhibitions in the form of publications of all the resources and products of EPIC-WE on a website, as well as onsite EPIC-WE exhibitions of the cultural products by the cultural organisations involved. The underlying vision of the project is that the consortium should develop new partnership models, cultural formats and game products to support empowered participation and new futures for young people in Europe within the field of games and culture, as well as empowered collaboration and cultural innovation, by connecting creative industries, cultural organisations and research institutions to meet across European borders.”


  • EPIC-WE is an EU project starting on 1 March 2023 and running for three years (2023-2026) which focuses on exploring and developing new models for cultural collaboration, empowered participation, cultural processes and design kits for games through and for culture which can help establish culture hubs across Europe.
  • The project has a total budget of roughly DKK 23 million from the EU’s Horizon Europe programme and is part of a EU initiative focusing on games and culture shaping our society, which deals with games and game development as, through and for culture. Read more.
  • Aarhus University is the lead partner, and Rikke Toft Nørgård is the Project Coordinator. A total of 12 partners are involved in the EPIC-WE consortium, which is divided equally between research institutions, cultural organisations and creative industries in Europe.
  • You can read more about the project here.

For more information, please contact:

Associate Professor Rikke Toft Nørgård, PhD

  • Department of Educational Theory and Curriculum Studies
  • Danish School of Education (DPU), Aarhus University
  • E-mail: rtoft@edu.au.dk
  • Tel.: 20466756