23 July 2006

Saving the world, one video game at a time [New York Times]

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Madrid game
Video games have long entertained users by immersing them in fantasy worlds full of dragons or spaceships. But Peacemaker, a video game simulation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is part of a new generation: games that immerse people in the real world, full of real-time political crises. And the games’ designers aren’t just selling a voyeuristic thrill. Games, they argue, can be more than just mindless fun, they can be a medium for change.

Games are uniquely good at teaching people how complex systems work. Video games also possess a persuasive element that is missing from books or movies: They let the player become a different person (at least for an hour or two), and see the world from a new perspective.

Featured games:

  • Peacemaker (a video game simulation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict)
  • Food Force (a UN released game that helps people understand the difficulties of dispensing aid to war zones)
  • A Force More Powerful (a game to teach the methods of influencing or changing the political environment using nonviolent methods)
  • Darfur is Dying (a narrative based simulation about surviving in a Darfur refugee camp)
  • September 12 (a simple game to explore some aspects of the war on terror
  • Madrid (a newsgame about the 3/11 terrorist attacks in Spain)

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