Can Your PlayStation Stop a War?
Video games are being used for everything from helping find cures for HIV to losing weight. It's time to start using them to make peace.
The question of whether violent video games cause violence in the real world has been around pretty much since they were introduced. It’s a controversial issue and one that has prompted at least six reports by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and was the subject of a 2011 Supreme Court decision that struck down a ban on selling them to kids without parental supervision. From policymakers to parents, people are investing resources into investigating how interactive media shapes audiences both psychologically and behaviorally. As it turns out, although most of the worst fears about games creating a more violent society are overblown, they do, like all media, have an impact on the people who use them. In the past decade, designers have begun to harness that impact capability to achieve positive social impact, on the idea that games could inspire a new wave of good.
Also got to chat with Nino Nanitashvili and Justin Hefter, who are both doing really cool work with games. Nino used the Games for Peace methodology to bring Georgian and Abkhazian youth together (as well as worked with professional developers to create a game for peacebuilding). Justin is looking at for profit models to build games.
I spoke with my colleague Giselle Lopez about the PeaceTech Exchanges at the Tech4Dem Happy Hour.
I was one of 30 speakers at the Afghan Social Media Summit. Due to timing issues with my visa I was unable to attend the conference in person, butI ended up giving my presentation "Connecting & Collecting Better With Data" over a through skype instead.
It was an awesome event co-organized by International Alert and Creative Associates. Giselle Lopez and I walked away with a lot of support (not to mention 300+ hours of bro-bono consulting from the Development Solutions Organization) for our project, which we called Disrupt.
The problem we wanted to tackle is that the Islamic State is dominating the world of social media. 50,000 pro-ISIS messages go out in a variety of languages every day, but messages of peace and counternarratives are often drowned out in the spaces where vulnerable youth are exchanging ideas and can be radicalized. This is a huge challenge that eventually requires engagement on the person-to-person level, but our project starts out by tackling the challenge of amplifying moderate voices in social media at large.
Using Crimson Hexagon - a powerful social media analysis tool that is able to sift through vast amounts of social media and pull out both pro and anti-ISIS content. These streams are filtered by a human layer of analysis (sifting out duplicate or irrelevant content), and fed into the game where the player interacts with them through gameplay. In our prototype, the player contested IS messages by pummeling a block filled with real-world ISIS tweets. In the future, she might be painting over them with a group of her friends (check out the concept art below!) The player contests ISIS content through actions powered by promoting and amplifying positive narratives around the world.
Several goals for the future. The first is that we will want to design the game to incorporate social media in multiple languages. The vast majority of the conversations taking place online are not in English, and if the project is going to have impact it will need to amplify and address the Arabic voices that are the important ones in this conflict. We'll want to work with Arabic developers to make the game. And ultimately, because radicalization is a product of peer to peer networks, we'll need to find a way to bring impact from the broad world of social media to the realm of close interpersonal relations. A big challenge for gaming, but one worth dedicating ourselves to.
Games are a powerful potential tool for peacebuilders looking to change the world for good. Here's one idea of how it can happen.
From September 18-20th I participated in Ruby DCamp - a learn-fest that brings together some of the warmest developers in the DC area (and from many other states besides.) I learned about the Ruby coding language and had some incredible conversations about coders who want to bend their skills towards good tasks.
I had the pleasure to talk with Marianne Perez de Fransius, Sabrina Urrutia, and Meg Villanueva about their upcoming project, the Peace Superheroes game. They're looking to use games to teach kids about how to handle scenarios like bullying or accepting diversity.
I've been working on a project off and on since September 2014. It's slowly approaching completeness... although there are times I think I'll never be done. I keep wanting to add features, to make the game more complete. At some point, I know I'll have to tie the knot and ship.
I got the idea for the game watching Star Trek: Voyager with my fiance. Wonderful premise for a show - can I turn it into a game? I like the ideas of being lost in space - isolated, except for a small community around you that draws together.
More updates to follow - although none too soon because I'm gonna get MARRIED in a week.
I've created a 10-minute interactive story about the captain of a colony vessel about to embark on a long journey into deep space. Definitely experienced first-hand the challenge of making branching story lines, and have been music quite a bit on the various ways the BioWare or TellTale have tried to address the challenge.
All of it done in the browser (save for generating an android store keystore). I love the future.
I'm working with Jorge Luis Sierra at the International Committee for Journalists to create an app and web form to assist journalists in conflict zones. Users receive customized feedback and access to resources based upon their responses.
Awesome experience. I got to merge my love for games design as an indie designer and as a peacebuilder. In stunning Cyprus, no less.
I met Nawres Arif at PeaceTech Exchange: Basra earlier this month. I've signed on to be on the Board of Advisers for his i-mimic project, which is applying for the MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDJNVBvDgho
Literacy rates in Nepal.
I attended Open Data Day with my friend Casey Watts. I met Ravi Kumar, who an organization geared towards improving digital literacy in Nepal. We worked together to find an effective way to convey all of his census data - after learning a bit together, he created several cartodb maps and continues to use them in his own work. Learn more about literacy challenges in Nepal (and see his visualization) on Code for Nepal.