Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 22/06/2010

Gaza to Ramallah

The Israeli NGO Gisha has released a new flash-based game, “Safe Passage,” which is designed to highlight some of the rather Kafkaesque residency regulations in the occupied Palestinian territories. According to their press release:

Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement today launched the first computer game of its kind in Israel: “Safe Passage” allows the user to experience interactively the restrictions on movement between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank through innovative use of animation, flash documents, video clips and a blog. The game includes an archive of dozens of legal documents that shed light on military legislation and legal rulings since the 1990s, when Israel began imposing increasing restrictions on movement between the two parts of the territory.

Users can play the role of one of three characters– a student, a businessman and a family man – trying to reach their chosen destinations. When the player enters the role of the student, she will be asked to try to convince a military mailbox to examine her request to study using a flying hat, whereas the family man finds himself sitting one moment on a bench outside his home in the West Bank and in the next being catapulted to the Gaza Strip because of a magic key. The businessman, meanwhile, contends with giant coins threatening to prevent him from manufacturing and selling ice cream, driving him to seek creative solutions on land and in the air.

According to the animator, Gilad Baker: “We faced a challenge – how to make military documents accessible to the public. Our solution was to integrate them into the personal stories of real people in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, to help people understand the policy”.

Passages falls into the category of web-based advocacy games, of the sort we’ve highlighted before on PaxSims. It’s not much of a game, of course, since no matter what options you select you won’t be able to leave Gaza—much like the real situation, which is the entire point. The idea of a “game” is being used here as a baited conceptual hook to draw attention to an issue, in the hopes that the player/reader will then be motivated to learn more, and ultimately be mobilized around the featured cause. In this regard, the site is quite well done, with links to actual military orders and legal texts, as well as profiles of the real people behind the animated characters. I did wonder whether some of the abstraction and metaphor in the graphics might confuse those who aren’t already familiar with the situation, but since the project is aimed in large part at an Israeli audience this presumably will be less of a problem.

Picture at above right: Erez Crossing, from my last trip to Gaza in January. h/t to Nigel Roberts for passing on the game link.

The Social Sciences and Innovations in Gaming

There’s a great piece in the latest issue of Joint Force Quarterly 58 (July 2010) by Margaret McCown on how to avoid giving PaxSims the blogpost you once promised us. Wait, no that’s not it—it’s actually on the interrelationship between social science theory and game design:

This is a fascinating time to be a gamer, particularly one developing policy games. The types of problems to be gamed, the technical support available to do so, and the importance of exercises’ findings all seem imbued with unusual potential and urgency. The security challenges that we capture and present in strategic games are increasingly characterized by transnational, networked, and multilevel domestic, national, and international factors, all of which require new or, at least, sharpened tools to represent and assess. At the same time, a range of new tools, from distributed computer gaming systems to virtual reality, has become available. This article argues, however, that for practitioners writing virtually any game, the social sciences—economics, political science, and sociology—constitute the single most important source of both substantive theory and methodological insight.

The simple explanation behind this assertion is that almost all strategic level policy problems are also social science problems; they concern how actors, whether individuals, groups, bureaucracies, social movements, or nations, make calculated decisions with respect to their interests and environment, construct social institutions and rules to further those goals, and compete for goods allocated in ways influenced by all of the above. This article briefly highlights some ways in which social scientists have theorized and tested hypotheses about how and why actors make and break rules, and the relevance of these efforts to gaming.

She highlights a number of key theoretical issues from economics, experimental psychology, and political science that can both the explored in games (as a possible research methodology), and reflected in games (as embedded hypotheses, design philosophies, heuristic devices, or even an inspirations). There’s a great many that could be added beside, including many drawn from game theory (reputation issues in iterative games, for example).

As for the MIA blog-post, we’ll forgive Margaret for that. After all, she does serve sushi at her gaming roundtables.

Simulation & Gaming (June 2010)

The latest issue of Simulation & Gaming 41, 3 (June 2010) is now available online:

  • Analyzing Conflict Dynamics With the Aid of an Interactive Microworld Simulator of a Fishing Dispute
    • Ranan D. Kuperman
  • Balancing Play, Meaning and Reality: The Design Philosophy of LEVEE PATROLLER
    • Casper Harteveld, Rui Guimarães, Igor S. Mayer, and Rafael Bidarra
  • Incorporating Customer Lifetime Value Into Marketing Simulation Games
    • Hugh M. Cannon, James N. Cannon, and Manfred Schwaiger
  • Video Game-Based Methodology for Business Research
    • Larry L. Lawson and Catherine L. Lawson
  • Debriefing in Moodle: Written feedback on trust and knowledge sharing in a social dilemma game
    • Margaret Oertig
  • Debriefing a Health-Related Educational Game: A Case Study
    • Jeffrey L. Lennon
  • Using Gaming Literacies to Cultivate New Literacies
    • Hui-Yin Hsu and Shiang-Kwei Wang
  • Database Manager
    • Andrew Martin
  • Operations Strategy with Paper Boats
    • Narendar Sumukadas
  • Association News & Notes
    • Songsri Soranastaporn

While abstracts are available through the link to SAGE journals above, you’ll need a subscription to access the full text.

more on Battle for Baghdad

The folks at MCS Group had some comments on my recent review of Battle for Baghdad. Rather than risk them being missed, I thought I would flag them here:

Thank you for the review of our new Battle for Baghdad game, and the kind comments regarding the Nicaragua game design. We would like to clarify Battle for Baghdad’s design and purpose. The game is not intended to be a military simulation of operations in the Iraqi capital, nor is it intended to reflect historical realities of the specific military aspects of the campaign. Rather, the game is more political than military, and the design intent was to place players in a situation of modern political conflict using the situation in Baghdad as a backdrop…

Readers should go to the comments section of the original review to read the rest. We welcome everyone’s thoughts.

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