Saturday, November 11, 2006

War games: digital technology provides medium for educating and influencing

Computer games educate and influenceDigital technology has proven itself a powerful tool in the hands of educators. Virtual worlds like Second Life provide space for online learning, for everything from peer mediation training to experimental law school classes.

Computer games also serve as a medium for transmitting ideas, influencing minds, and building public awareness of critical social and political issues.

By way of example, consider two very different games:

A Christian video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces, based on the popular series of novels, pits the Lord's faithful in an apocalyptic battle against the Antichrist's Global Community Peacekeepers. According to a review in today's Boston Globe, the game offers up both Scripture and moral choices to players, allowing them to wage either physical or spiritual warfare, using prayer as a weapon:

[Y]ou can create a band of soldiers who'll protect Tribulation Force territory from Carpathian incursions. But they're supposed to use minimal force. Every time they kill, even if it's justified, it weakens their moral fiber. Force them to kill too often, and they'll fall away from the faith and move to the Dark Side.
According to the Eternal Forces web site, "unnecessary killing will result in lower Spirit points which are essential to winning".

Meanwhile, a very different kind of action unfolds at Prisoners of War, an educational game and a joint project between Nobelprize.org and the Nobel Peace Center. Its purpose is to teach players about the work of three-time Nobel Peace Prize winner the International Committee of the Red Cross and the protections afforded by the Geneva Conventions to prisoners during wartime.

Visit Nobelprize.org to learn more about its other educational peace games. (With a hat tip to ICT for Peacebuilding for the link.)