PeaceGrooves was originally founded as a springboard for the creation of games and other story-telling venues that would educate players in peaceful ways to affect positive change.
My graduate theory paper “Video Games as Change Agents for Peace” presented this idea over ten years ago. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, PeaceGrooves was never able to fully realize its full potential and so I made the difficult decision several years ago to take our website offline and move on to other projects.
Today, I was inspired by the following article in the Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/2019/10/14/once-he-was-refugee-now-hes-ceo-making-video-games-peace/
It describes a former Somali refugee’s creation of a video game for peace that is based on the creator’s actual experience. Mr. Lual Mayen has created his own video game company to produce and market his game.
It is wonderful to see others who are making video games that are change agents for peace.
Our PaxBots have scoured the web far and wide and have found lots of great free games. Peace Heroes, Empathy, Bullying, Life Skills, Casual Games, and Environment are just some of the subjects the games are organized under. Finally one place to go to play great nonviolent games! www.peacegrooves.com
Video games can function as important educational tools. But can they go a step further and promote social awareness and change? This question has given rise to the Games for Change movement within the Serious Games Initiative.
The Serious Games Initiative was founded in 2002 at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington DC. The Serious Games Initiative focuses on the use of video games to explore challenges within the public sector. It is interested in helping to “forge productive links between the electronic game industry and projects involving the use of games in education, training, health, and public policy” (“Serious games initiative”, 2006) and is a merging of two paradigms; the entertainment paradigm from the commercial games industry and the education paradigm that focuses on training and learning (Ellis et al., 2006). According to David Rejewski, Director of the Serious Games Initiative, “games are one tool that may help immensely in building long-term thinking skills among not only government officials but the general public at-large” (“Serious games initiative”, 2006).
The initiative is not only concerned with creating better tools for education and training but also with using games to help create a better world. In 2004, the Initiative launched Games for Change (G4C) to focus specifically on the use of games for social change. Games for Change is “the primary community of practice for those interested in making digital games about the most pressing issues of our day, from poverty to race and the environment”(“Games for change”, 2006). The goal is to raise awareness which hopefully will lead to behavioral change.
So then the question becomes: within the G4C initiative, can we create games that bring about peace?
Does a game oversimplify and diminish suffering? This is an ongoing discussion in the Serious Games Initiative about whether games can tackle tragic issues and it is one that should continue. Some historical tragedies such as the Holocaust have not been addressed for this precise reason. If one does choose to create a game that gets folks to think, will doing so change behavior in the player?
Darfur is Dying (www.darfurisfying.com), a game created as a result of an MTV-sponsored contest, aims to bring awareness to the genocide taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan. Around 700,000 people played the game in the first month and many of these participated in the political action segment of the website (Thompson, 2006). Strengths of the game are ease of play, reality, and link to political action (the player can send an email to their political representative among other things). Weaknesses include difficult goals, cartoonish-quality graphics, and short game length.
As mentioned above, the game offers players an opportunity to advocate for the people of Darfur. You can also help by participating in the Sudan Campaign sponsored by MCC US online.
Play the game. Visit the website. Learn. Help. You can make a difference.