PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 28/08/2009

From Global Conflicts: Child Soldiers to Tactical Iraqi

According to Gamer’s Daily News, the Danish gaming company Serious Games Interactive has just released another in its Global Conflicts series:

The Global Conflicts computer game series invites you to experience one of the most turbulent conflicts in Africa! Following up on the award-winning computer game Global Conflicts: Palestine and Global Conflicts: Latin America, the latest title focuses on the use of child soldiers in Uganda.

In this exact moment, all around the world, innocent men, woman and children are becoming victims of local struggles and war. The Global Conflicts series focuses on these victims and their stories. This latest title in the game series takes you to Uganda, where two decades of brutal civil war between government forces and the rebels known as the Lord’s Resistance Army has driven an estimated 1,7 million people into refugee camps, killed tens of thousands, destroyed villages and forced more than 25.000 children into serving as child soldiers.

Global Conflicts: Child Soldiers

Global Conflicts: Child Soldiers, like the previous GC titles, is a 3D role-playing simulation game based on real-life personal accounts from the region. As a player, you will work for the International Criminal Court and will be sent on an assignment in Uganda, where you will meet the feared leader of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army, Jospeh Kony. The game focuses on topics such as child soldiers, human rights and war-crimes.

The target audience for Global Conflicts: Child Soldiers are critical and reflective players who want to challenge their outlook on the world. The game will be available in English and Danish from August 26th 2009. In the coming months, other Global Conflicts titles will come available at our official Global Conflict portal.

They’ve released a teaser for the product (below), although it doesn’t really tell you very much about game play. As of posting, the product isn’t available for download from their website, although this may change soon. UPDATE: As Anna points out in the comments below, the software can now be downloaded from http://www.globalconflicts.eu.

I have played around a little with one of their earlier of their games, Global Conflict: Palestine. In this, you’re a freelance journalist (working for an Israeli, Palestinian, or international newspaper) following a story. As you wander around a 3D Jerusalem and interview the locals, you are exposed to a range of a narratives that are themselves shaped by how you approach and interact with your subjects. You’re also under pressure to meet your readers’ and editor’s expectations. In the end, you try to fashion some sense of the “truth” and, using notes and quotes you’ve gathered from the people that you’ve interviewed, produce an article.

I found it interesting and fairly true-to-the-mark, although not especially engaging as a game. (Then again, in fairness to the designers, I’ve been wondering around the region for quite a few years and may have excessively high expectations.) It could be a useful instructional tool in high school classes (and possibly some university classes) if coupled with appropriate briefing and debriefing.

Some of the broader game mechanics are, somewhat ironically, akin to components in several simulations now being used by the military for training purposes. With the growing emphasis on population-centric counterinsurgency (COIN) generated by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, these “games” typically encourage participants to develop appropriate interaction skills with the local (simulated) population in order to secure information and cooperation. Ineffective approaches, by contrast, tend to alienate the locals.

In the Tactical Iraqi (and Tactical Pashto, Tactical Dari, and Tactical French) language and cultural awareness training software , for example, players learn language and non-verbal communication skills, and then use these to interact with the local population in a 3D environment. In this case, speech recognition software judges the student’s verbal replies:

It is fairly easy to imagine a version of this sort of approach being used in the NGO and aid community. The question, however, is whether it is worth it, or whether human trainers could do a better job. (Of course, the development community doesn’t have to train its employees by the thousands, which is why stand-alone software has the training appeal that it does in large militaries like the US. Equally, the development community doesn’t have the R&D and training budget of the US military either.)

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