Playing for Peace in the Middle East
Navigating serious issues in context through gaming is at the heart of a new initiative leveraging the PeaceMaker video game. Using the game as a teaching tool, a new collaboration challenges players to work for virtual peace in the Middle East while informing their own perspective.
PeaceMaker is an award-winning strategic video game about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict designed to encourage open minds and hearts when considering the conflict and the affect it has on each side. Since 2007, the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa, Israel has used the game in workshops for Israeli and Palestinian youth—run separately for each group. Now, groups will play together for the first time.
The Fetzer Institute is working to increase awareness of the difficult issues by supporting workshops in which 15- to 18-year-old Israelis and Palestinians will play the game together. Results will be analyzed with an eye on developing values such as empathy, compassion, love, and forgiveness.
PeaceMaker was created by Asi Burak, a former Israeli officer who has produced video games and helped agencies and media outlets on the strategic use of games to further brand engagement and education. Burak is now co-director of Games for Change, a non-profit that catalyzes social change through digital games.
"The secret is to opt for the middle route, to walk between the drops and not make radical decisions," Burak told Reuters News Service. "You have to know when to ignore things and when to respond."
Inspired by real events, PeaceMaker gives players a high-level view of the situation in the Middle East. Players can take either an Israeli or a Palestinian perspective, and game play involves responding to news footage, images and headlines.
The game accomplishes its mission of building awareness of a complicated situation, according to reviews on the gamesforchange.org website. Player Alex commented, “The game gives you a sense of how leaders are being pulled in two different directions. When you try to make a show of good faith and build the confidence of the other group your own group immediately attacks you.”
In playing the game, Alex added, “I liked the news footage because it helps to remind you that these are real issues that are affecting people’s lives.”
This is a project of the Fetzer Advisory Council on Information and Communications Professions.