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A video game for peace?

 

While violent video games cannot be blamed for all the violence in real life, it is nevertheless a fact that armed groups and militaries all around the world are in fact using them to recruit and train fighters. This got us thinking, if it works for promoting violence - why can’t it work to promote peace?

More than half a billion people worldwide play video games at least an hour a day, with 183 million in the U.S. alone. Some people tend to spend 40 hours a week playing games - like a day job, but with no pay! It might be difficult to believe, but a young person actually racks up to 10,000 hours playing video games by the age of 21. More than half of the games rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board contain violence, out of which 90% are inappropriate for the younger audience. Battles, guns, wars, bosses and mayhem. Let's face it, a lot of games are made so that the player can go kill aliens, creatures, monsters and even their fellow human. Having a variety of weapons is a huge selling point, it’s fun to bludgeon enemies to death or shoot the living daylights out of them. In fact, a game lacking any blood and gore is just plain ol’ boring, I mean… are you serious? Why would anyone want to play a game where slicing someone in half isn’t an option?

There we are, right in the middle of the main challenge we are facing as an organization in our quest for peace - how to effectively reach out to an audience that is truly difficult to reach? More specifically, how to effectively strengthen Middle Eastern youth’s conflict resolution skills, when traditional and over-politicized media have long lost credibility in their eyes, and being lectured about conflict resolution is not at all what they would choose as a pastime.

It was when a Lebanese friend told us that his strongest memory of the civil war was the time he spent playing video games that we started to think that this could actually be the ideal tool for creating positive social change amongst youth. After doing some research about the use of video games here in Lebanon, we found that over 95% of Lebanese youth are playing video games - leading us to conclude that videogames are in fact THE way to engage our audience.

With traditional peacebuilding activities we tend to reach the usual suspects and preach to the choir, but a video game would allow us to reach out to everyone, IF we are smart enough to convey our message in a fun and entertaining way. That IF is in fact of crucial importance. We are well aware typically games that intend to teach anything are just boring with a capital B. People who produce “educational” or “serious” games may have their hearts in the right place, but sometimes they become too enthusiastic about the lessons they want to deliver and forget the one most crucial element - fun. When the educational part takes over and it is not fun anymore, then the whole purpose of using a video game is lost. Therefore, we attempt to go beyond what is normal and cooperate with a team of veteran game developers who have worked on big games like Age of Conan and Assassin’s Creed.

That is how Cedaria: Blackout was born.

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