Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 15/07/2011

Training to take down Qaddafi

The Washington Post has a piece today that examines how rebels in western Libya lack weapons and training, and are improvising in their struggle to overthrow the Qaddafi dictatorship. There’s a simulation dimension to all this too, as one group of rebel fighters noted with some self-depreciating humour:

Asked about their military training, a group of Berber rebels from the coastal town of Zuwarah answered, “Medal of Honor.” They explained it’s a first-person shooter video game popular on PlayStation.

Of course, in real combat the hits hurt more, you heal way slower, and you don’t respawn.

On the subject of Arab Spring “simulations” there is also Russian blogger Egor Zhgun’s brilliant “Three Big Bigs” video on the overthrow of the Ben Ali, Mubarak, and Qaddafi regimes:

NATO airstrikes haven’t been quite so effective as Zhgun suggested they would be, however—which is why, four months later, the Libyan rebels are still improvising.

More thoughts on G4C 2011

Skip Cole, who provided PAXsims with a field report on the Games for Change Festival in New York late June, has kindly sent on some additional thoughts on the event.

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Sorry all for not getting to you sooner these final notes on the Game for Change Festival. The past couple weeks I’ve been in transition, but I really wanted to mention here a few interesting items, and one truly excellent talk, and a way you can access it.

The Games For Change Festival is really something to experience. Fortunately much it is now online.

What you can’t do online is play all of the games that were displayed, but trailers for most of them can be found here.

Tuesday night was the reception. It was a great event (see photo at righ), and I got to meet some really great people. Notably, I met the guy who created the game Gift-Trap. It looks like a great game to play.

This year the second day was shared with G4LI (Games for Learning Institute.) Some of the academicians are doing some really cool and ground-breaking research. But to be honest, I sometimes get turned off by them. For example, during one of the presentations, a fellow in the audience mentioned that his son used to play a lot of video games, and when doing so his son wanted to be a hero and make the world better. But then after 3 years of college, his son just wanted to ‘not make the world any worse.’ Of course the crowd cheered loudly, since the story seemed to point to the power of video games and the weakness of our higher educational system. But my reaction was completely different. I have learned of too many of the pernicious side-effects of unbridled ‘do gooderism.’ I agreed more with the man’s son: this world is complicated! ‘Do no harm’ is actually really hard to pull off. I’m not convinced our current Games for Change are conveying all of that.

Some people are now making a living doing Games for Change, and they added a lot to the conversation. I was very glad to learn of the 90-9-1 business model for online games. In this business model, 90% of the people play for free. 9% pay a little, and 1% pay a little more. I’m incorporating that into some proposals I’m working on right now.

One thing I did heartily agree with was a quote from someone’s talk, “We need to provide our teachers the tools to allow each one of our teachers to be as excellent as our most excellent teachers.” I thought that was great, and strikes close to the mission of my own organizations, Sea Change Simulations. I just wish I had wrote down Who said it! (I’ll send a prize to the first person who let’s me know who it was.)

Finally, THE very BEST thing I experienced in the final two days was Jesse Schell’s closing keynote. It dealt with video games and war and peace – an excellent analysis. Fortunately it is online now!

Hope you get a chance to watch the video. I found it highly entertaining and edifying, and I’m now reading his book The Art of Game Design.

 Skip Cole

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