Jane McGonigal

Jane McGonigal and her TED keynote remind me of a presentation I did for my Israeli / Palestinian conflict class. For decades, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has compromised the lives of innocents on both sides, and has subsequently led to a slew of peace negotiations throughout the years. Be it the Rogers Plan of 1970, or the more recent Camp David 2000 Summit – it’s become abundantly clear that political intervention has, and possibly never will instigate outside interest, let alone rectify the conflict. But elsewhere, there are those who seek to establish peace and awareness using unconventional methods – such as video games. Is it too farfetched to assume that interactive arts and media can make a difference though? Jane McGonical and I say absolutely not! Now, Back in 2005, a small team of students began writing and conceptualizing a video game – assigned by their instructors at Carnegie Melon University. By semester’s end, the project had yet to be completed. But for two students, the development process was far from over. Two years later, a new studio would emerge with a new intellectual property – one with an agenda that greatly contrasts that of most games today: to promote peace. The title was appropriately called, PeaceMaker. Shortly after the release of PeaceMaker, a game of similar nature was released on Mac OS X and Windows platforms, called Global Conflicts: Palestine. In it, players assume the role of a nameless (so as not to limit the players personality) freelance journalist touring Jerusalem and the ongoing turmoil in the region. Similar to PeaceMaker, players are given freedom to align themselves as desired – but choice is much more pivotal here. While exploring the 3 dimensional environs, players need to separate fact from fiction as they speak to the NPC’s that are littered throughout the world. Truthfulness and precision are integral to writing an article, or the players’ standing with either side can wane greatly, potentially compromising the results of future endeavors. The game has been used as an educational instrument as well, being cited as “a worthwhile purchase for any school that teaches human rights, sociology and the role of media as it offers a new, imaginative, informative and most of all, different way to deliver what can otherwise be a problematic topic.” Now, this part is crucial – at least to me. I grew up playing video games, and not just at home. They were a vital part of my curriculum in elementary school. Gizmo’s and Gadgets, Oregon Trail, Reader Rabbit, Math Blaster and Number Munchers; it would be so very false of me to assume that those educational video games I played as a child had little to no impact on me today.

Post Author: Charles.Weichselbaum

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