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Grapevine helps people experiencing isolation, poverty and disadvantage in Coventry and Warwickshire. It does this by strengthening individuals, sparking community action and shifting power across services.

This Guide focuses on how youth workers and other mentors can use gaming to help build one to one relationships with young people. It takes a youth led approach. You’ll also find some tips for running group gaming sessions.

Steps to using online gaming as a way of connecting with young people

This approach is not about introducing young people to gaming. It is focused on meeting young people where they are. When you can share a young person's hobby, you can help them build their skills and conference.

When you're getting to know a young person listen out for if anyone mentions online gaming.

For example:

  • The young person themself when you meet them
  • The key worker making a referral
  • Family members or carers, discussing support the young person needs.

At Grapevine, the Teenvine Next Steps project works with young people identified as isolated. Often they are autistic (either diagnosed or suspected) and many have ADHD. Some also experience challenges with their mental health. Others find themselves marginalised and feeling alone for other reasons. Many of them don’t like to engage with education and some rarely leave their house. They may be referred by a keyworker, family member or education professional.

The project worker, Paul usually meets the young person and their family at the beginning of their mentoring support. They often learn that the young person enjoys one online game in particular.

When this happens, they show interest. They’ll offer to watch and learn about the game or to meet the young person online and play with them.

You don’t need to be an expert in the game. But you do need to have a sense of what kind of game it is. You will want to understand:

  • Whether it is free - and how easy it is to avoid in game purchases?

  • Whether players can find other players they know inside the game and what kind of chat options are available to enable this?

  • Whether it runs on different servers (this can affect finding each other in game)?

  • Whether there are any particular kinds of risks or behaviours in game that you may want to avoid or set boundaries around?

  • What kind of gameplay to expect?

Don’t be put off by scaremongering newspaper articles. Instead try and research via channels like YouTube or Twitch. You will find guides to avoiding problems that might come up.

Chapter 4 Scene 4 of fortnite. The player's (Paul Teenvine) avatar - a black man with his arms folded across his chest is standing in the centre of the screen on a disk. 3 disks around him are waiting for team mates to arrive for battle royale. Character creation in Fortnite

At Grapevine, research might start as soon as a referral comes in, particularly if a game is mentioned. More often research follows a conversation with the young person. Project worker Paul also notes that it’s helpful to be able to do research whilst on a call with young people. He feels confident to look up their suggestions in the moment and assess benefits and risks.

During the Grapevine project Paul has researched and played Fortnite, Among Us, Roblox games and Genshin Impact.

You will need to make sure you have:

  • Information from the young person about the game they play and the servers they play on.

  • Workplace accounts for any game you want to play and for any video calling software. This keeps the worker’s personal contact details private.

  • Access to a PC, phone, PlayStation (or other gaming device) to play the games and run a call at the same time. These should be workplace devices not ones that belong to the worker. This reduces the risk of exposing the worker’s personal online information.

You could also practise playing the game or watch some YouTube, Twitch or TikTok tutorials.

Blue screen with an avatar in the top right corner wearing a motorcycle helment and white t-shirt. The name of the account is Paul Teenvine - shown large at the top of the page. The rest of the page has various game stats. Log in screen showing the worker's address "Paul Teenvine"

At Grapevine, they tend to use Zoom for calls and in game chatting. They mix phone, PC or PlayStation for the gaming - depending on the game and the young person. Paul watches some tutorials and familiarises himself with the game. But he doesn’t worry too much about being good at it before he joins a young person for a session. Many of them find it empowering to show Paul how to play the game. He notes that older teenagers can get impatient if he doesn’t improve fast enough though!

There are many different YouTube tutorials available. If you're playing Fortnite Battle Royale Paul suggests this one from ProGuides.

Meet the young person on a video or a voice call - then follow their lead to decide on how you are going to collaborate. They might want to show you their play through screen share first, or they might want to play together straight away.

Remember to let them lead. Use all your usual support and mentoring skills whilst allowing the game play to provide focus and connection.

Look for opportunities to value the skills they are showing.

Paul’s role is to build young people’s confidence so that they choose to engage more with education for themselves. He finds that gaming provides opportunities to validate what young people can do.

For example, one young person showed him around Fortnite. He helped Paul get items and carry out actions needed to survive. Paul was able to help that person see that they had given clear instructions and shown leadership and support.

He’s been able to help some young people recognise how much they were reading whilst gaming. For others, he's shown them how much maths they were doing without even thinking about it.

The gaming also allows him to develop trust, share gentle banter and communicate boundaries. This strengthens the mentoring relationship.

If you are working with several young people interested in the same game, a joint session might make sense.

You should risk assess this in the same way that you would any face to face session.

Think about:

  • Relative ages

  • Relative experience in the game and attitudes to players with different skill levels

  • The likelihood that the young people will get to know each other's game ID’s and may meet up independently.


  • How to co-create a light touch behaviour agreement with the young people for the session

  • What the appropriate number of workers is for a session

  • Any permissions or follow ups you might need from parents or carers

  • How you will create privacy for one to one conversations with any member of the group, if needed.

At Grapevine, they use the same safeguarding practices and ratios of staff to young people as for face to face sessions. This means 1 worker for up to 4 young people. For sessions with more more young people, a second worker joins the Zoom. This worker doesn't need to fully take part in the gaming.

Paul has run several group sessions in Fortnite and Among Us, and a few in Roblox. On a Zoom call, Paul and the young people agree some rules about friendly communication and gameplay. One they've agreed then the session starts.

Paul particularly likes Zoom’s ability to create breakout rooms. He has used this feature to handle a disclosure made during a gaming session. This enabled it to happen safely and without needing to bring the main session to a halt.

He also makes it standard practice to ensure parents and carers know about the sessions. He will tell them who the other teenagers are and let them know if they have exchanged game contact details.

It hasn’t always been possible to run group sessions when wanted. For example, he only has one young person who plays Genshin Impact. He’s raised the idea of trying it with some other members of the group - but respects their decision that the game is not fun for them.

Further information

  • Want to chat about this Guide? Contact Paul on [email protected]
  • New to working with young people or to online activities with young people? Make sure you have safeguarding covered with the Digisafe Toolkit.
  • Want to see more Guides to working with young people and adults from Grapevine? Check out their collection.