Three of the top ten best-selling video games of 2011 are characterized by explicit violence and main objectives which celebrate using various means by the user character to destroy other characters (1). While there has been very little clear evidence linking violence portrayed in video games to violence by users, the game market is notably void of games made explicitly for peace. Video games can be used by educators to promote peaceful ways to conflict resolution without distracting from the education system’s core curriculum.
Video games as explicit means of peace education do not form an established genre in the gaming world. But, some games have been developed that reward peaceful means of conflict resolution and penalize violent behavior. For example, the video game Civilization tasks the user with building a thriving civilization from the ground up, but the user is penalized if major violence and riots occur in the user’s civilization. The 2007 video game PeaceMaker, tasks the user with taking one side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and implementing a peaceful two-state solution, all the while being challenged by realistic events occuring during the user’s play.
A short video on PeaceMaker
In what context can video games for peace be used in learning? What type of lesson plan can be used with the goal of peace learning in mind? One possible context is for these video games to be integrated into the computer classes present in primary and secondary education. Simple point-and-click mini-games, which reward win-win situations between the user and computer intelligence and penalize aggressive behavior, can demonstrate peaceful ways to deal with conflict and are appropriate for users with relatively basic computer skills. These games can be used by educators to reward excellence and progress in computer classes, and since they are cheap and easy to produce, can be integrated into existing computer literacy programs. Certain classes in the social sciences could play a short video game that explains peaceful methods of conflict resolution and challenges students with finding the most peaceful solution in relations between people and groups of people. Students with advanced computer skills could play role-playing games, such as Civilization and PeaceMaker, in classes, clubs, and camps. In all these examples, it is essential for the educator to review the rewards-and-penalties systems existing in the game and prompt the students to reflect on how these games simulate decision making in conflicts.
Implementation of a lesson plan using video games is hampered by two problems: a lack of resources and a lack of pedagogy. Many education systems do not have computers available for student use aside from special computer literacy courses or lack adequate computer labs for students to use in this lesson plan. The use of video games geared for peace in a school curriculum could face problems in implementation because video games are often associated with laziness and distractions from education, rather than a form of education itself. Peace education through video games would receive less criticism in being implemented if educators demonstrated the success of other interactive games in teaching educational topics and assisting core curricula.
Video games can be used as an educational resource for peace. Video games designed specifically for demonstrating and rewarding peaceful solutions to conflicts can be integrated into existing educational settings and can fit into larger lesson plans on conflict and peace. Peace educators can use video games as a way for students to explore peace in an accessible environment and apply peace education topics to simulated conflicts.
(1): These three games, (Call of Duty: Black Ops, Mortal Kombat and L.A. Noire), are noted by the Entertainment Software Rating Board for blood, gore, and intensive violence. The best-seller rating comes from a CNBC article.