Can Video Games Build Peace?

We know that video games are great entertainment...but can they also help build peace?

Today, forty-four percent of the world’s Internet population play games online, and the industry is experiencing rapid growth in many conflict zones around the world.

In the Middle East, where many of the world's conflicts are centred, sixty-five percent of mobile Internet users have games on their devices, making it the game industry's fastest growing region.

Ever played PeaceMaker? In this exciting game, players become the head-of-state in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to try to achieve a resolution. We spoke with Eric Brown from Impact Games (the company behind PeaceMaker) and he said gaming provides many benefits to the peace-building community.

“One story from very early on,” Eric said, “was when we had one group playing it and when they started having a discussion about the real issues they were saying things like ‘Well, when I was the Palestinian president, this is what I did’ and things like that.”

“So, in terms of all those things people like to talk about in games – empowering and making them feel like they are learning through experience, and having that opportunity to explore – they were all really good things to see,” he said.

Also working across conflict divides is Games for Peace, which brings Jewish and Arab youth in Israel together to interact in digital spaces like Minecraft and Team Fortress 2.

Peace Park is another skill-building game where players have to restore peace in a communal park by understanding visitors' interests. The designers behind this game said they were wary of trying to balance overall goals with a genuinely interesting game.

Nino Nanitashvili from Elva Community Engagement told us that during the development of Peace Park, they actively involved the gaming community to help us design the levels.

Other examples in this emerging space are Peace Superheroes and Search for Common Ground’s Battle for Humanity, which is soon to be released. These games aim to challenge enemy images, shift audience attitudes and encourage positive social behaviours such as civic engagement, conflict management, and tolerance.