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July 25, 2007

Virtual Reality

Picture this: Middle East turmoil brought right to your game cube. Your mission: facilitate peace.

Many of you familiar with my previous rantings re: Left Behind, Eternal Forces can probably imagine my annoyance when I initially heard about a new game called PeaceMaker. "Oh great, another cheesy game." Yet, PeaceMaker has sparked my interest. Imagine a positive, real-time game that, according to its website, "challenges you to succeed where others have failed." I like the sound of that.

Perhaps this type of game would be an educational tool as well, accurately teaching child and adult players about the ins and outs of real, current world events. Or perhaps it will be filled with the same meaningless propaganda that we see on the news every night.

But what do you think about allowing current situations to serve as story-lines for new games? Would playing a game about Middle East conflicts somehow desensitize us to the true horrors of the situation, or would it provide us a deeper understanding of the truth of the situation?

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I'm curious what scenarios the game designers decided would be successful/peaceful outcomes? I mean it not like we know what the correct path to peace is otherwise we'd have peace already.

Sy Hoekstra

I don't see how it would do anything but desensitize us. It's not like kids playing Medal of Honor or Grand Theft Auto have a greater appreciation for the soldiers of WWII or the troubles of gang violence in our cities, or that kids playing Mario have a knew perspective on the plight of Italian plumbers forced to save their mushroom-filled worlds from dinosaur/turtle creatures.


Full disclosure- I am one of the developers of PeaceMaker. thanks for your interest. You are raising important questions that go beyond our work: Could video/computer games be a viable medium to convey messages and affect us emotionally just like films or books do. Why not trying out the free demo and see for yourself? So far the comments we have received from players (@Hoekstra- the majority are not kids but young adults or adults) are that the interactivity we offer deepens their attachment to the subject matter and reveals perspectives that were hidden before. I am a great believer in interactive media and it's great to see more and more initiatives that challenge its current industry boundaries.

Sy Hoekstra

Ok, maybe, I'm still skeptical, but that sounds like an alright response.

jason taylor

Can you simulate human nature as easily as you can simulate technical effects? You've got your work cut out for you. Naval sims require a lot of research, but the basic features are comprehensible to a computer.
Do the designers have a feel for the situation? Do they know the local history and culture?
Are you even sure you have the premise right? It sounds like it might instill in the player an Olympian certitude that the belligerents are children that can be manipulated by our benevolent selves for their own good. And making diplomacy seem like it is working toward a definite goal of "peace" is misleading. In real life a diplomat is simply a broker that deals in power rather then money.
For that matter is the game really likly to appeal to boys? The games boys like, often have a certain amount of "macho" appeal. Is ending competition quite the best seller?
And what about the game Diplomacy. That gives a real insight into how to arrange relations between nations.
And might it not make players think it easier then it is and be rather self-righteous? As I recall, we go through this every term. And every president ends up with egg on his face and making the whole country look like fools.
And all this is assuming peace is desired. Which seems rather dubious. It seems to me that the Israelis want peace because they won and the Palestinians don't because then they must admit they lost and no one has thought of an incentive to change that.

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