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From virtual skills to the real world

 

Are you sceptical whether a game can have any sort of lasting impact in real life? Well, studies have shown that video games do affect behavioral patterns. This effect can be negative - especially when games prompt someone to be more aggressive, but game have also been shown to increase dexterity and cognitive skills. Further, it has been proven that playing prosocial video games actually increasing empathy and helpfulness, making players more agreeable and predisposed to offer help to others. Yet, we have taken a few measures to ensure the transfer of virtually achieved skills to the real world.

On the surface, Cedaria might seem like a game with a simple, straightforward mission - assemble the missing pieces of the driving force behind a fictional island, or else run the risk of civil war and total economical decay. However, when you dig a little deeper you will find that there are many intricate details involved, many choices to be made, many consequences to be dealt with. The game aims to show, not tell. Instead of slapping people in the face with lessons and morals or shoving the righteous path under their noses, it allows the player to figure out the issues and their resolutions for themselves, and deal with any resulting consequences. With so many different options, the player has a reason to invest their time, emotions and critical thinking into the game. They will agonize over tough moral choices and probably end up reloading a lot of saves so they can reach the outcome they want! Just like in real life, the choices the player makes have a lasting impact on the world.

Fact is - video games are more influential than we care to admit; they are also quite similar to real life. Let’s take war games for example. As a player of most video games, you hear all about how the enemies, or the “others”, are evil, how they’re heartless and cruel, and only by killing them would the world become a better place. The same kind of dehumanization that we observe in conflicts all around the world - allowing enemies to view each other as less than human and thus not deserving of moral consideration. Given that Cedaria, while being a fictional island, is mirroring Lebanon's various social issues - we are very cautious to not  dehumanize anyone by having a great big bad wolf that the player needs to finish off in order to win…

Yet, next to choosing actual human characters with which players can identify, there are other features of Cedaria that will ensure the transfer of virtually achieved skills to the real world - like teamwork, for example. There are many games that let your play in cooperative mode with your friends or people from various backgrounds that you’ve only met online. Online gaming requires players to communicate effectively with their teammates in order to reach desired outcomes, and that’s why it’s an essential part of Cedaria.

In addition to creating this virtual platform of interaction, we will also be hosting actual tournaments between youth from different backgrounds and regions in Lebanon. This is especially important, because Lebanese people of different backgrounds tend to avoid intermingling, leading to a lack of understanding of the other and rampant stereotypes. Through a nationwide tournament we will provide youth with a fun opportunity to travel within Lebanon and hence provide them with an additional, real life platform for overcoming misconceptions of the other.

At SFCG we know from experience that popular culture is a powerful way of conveying messages such as acceptance of the “other” and tolerance without causing people to doze off in their seats. This is what we want to achieve with this video game, Cedaria: Blackout. We want to provide youth in the Middle East with a platform to learn and practice how to mediate conflict, solve community problems collaboratively, and understand the perspectives of the “other”. Skills that cannot be acquired in classrooms or books only, as they require constant practice - something that an entertaining video game can actually provide. If we manage to develop a game that is fun to play, then this approach could be a great success in effectively teaching conflict resolution skills! This is why we put a lot of effort on finding the right balance between ‘education’ and ‘entertainment’...

Overall, our goal with Cedaria: Blackout is to have a real, lasting impact on society and social behavior. Not all change happens in a day, and not all of it happens through force or direct impact; sometimes the message is more subtle by ingraining lessons and ideas into people’s minds so that they may explore them themselves. An interactive story like a videogame is the perfect way to do this. A real video game, that is, one that is all about fun and enjoyment, where learning is more of a nifty bonus.

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