Connecting Curious Dots

On the intersection of technology, culture, and everyday life: My semi-updated space to collect and link my thoughts about interesting things I spot.

Video Games Meet Capital Hill, Palestine, and Darfur

What do video games have to do with social change?  Part of the explanation behind my even sparser postings than usual has been several new projects including one researching and writing about that question. 

The hero’s mission = eliminate corruption on Capital Hill.  Instead of slinging bullets, players sling subpoenas in a video game about using the legal system to defeat shady lobbyists, Senators, and Congressmen.  Supoena Power is part of what some recent news coverage has called a trend in socially-conscious games. 

Although some might criticize games about real world conflicts as "trivializing" the issues, in a media society dominated by simplistic sound-byte news, supporters of politically-conscious games rebuke that new ways of getting information is needed.   

Recent games such as MTV’s free, internet-based Darfur is Dying have succeeded in engaging players.  Set at a refugee camp, it puts users in the perspective of a displaced Darfurian who must dodge the forces that threaten her survival.  The game, which can be spread virally from friend to friend (and had 700,000 players in its first month) moved tens of thousands of players to send politicians emails urging action on the crisis. 

Much of the excitment comes from a belief that games have the potential to allow people to explore and situate themselves in someone else’s reality (and thus care about and better understand complex conflicts and issues outside their personal comfort zone).   

Drawing from the troubles in the Palestinian territories, a game set to be released in early 2007,  Global Conflict: Palestine aims to let gamers see different perspectives and experience why the conflict won’t just go away.  Players are young journalists who can potentially shape the region’s future.  As the conflict escalates, the player must navigate between Palestinian and Israeli sources, maintaining their trust, while trying to uncover the truth.   The game will support educational uses with encyclopedia, teacher’s manual, assessment, and other features.   

Perhaps more food for thought: the process of developing a game itself can be a form of education and engagement.  Darfur is Dying
was the winner of a contest sponsered by mtvU, the Reebok Human Rights Foundation, and the International Crisis group.  The partnership offered a grant prize for a student idea about a game on Darfur.  The Californian graduate student who eventually won developed the game in close consultation with genocide experts and humanitarian aid workers who had extensive experience on the ground. (Read more here.)


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This entry was posted on November 19, 2006 by in Art and Activism, Games.
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