[ Marko Bijelic @ 28.10.2005. 10:30 ] @
|Sir, the Gamers Are Revolting! |
02:00 AM Oct. 27, 2005 PT
For Ivan Marovic, video games are serious business.
As one of the founders of the Serb student-resistance group Otpor ("resistance"), Marovic helped remove former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic from power. Since then, he has worked with the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, or ICNC, helping human rights activists to organize pro-democracy movements.
This year, Marovic and ICNC will add another training tool to their arsenal: a computer game called A Force More Powerful, which teaches players the strategy of nonviolent conflict.
Created by BreakAway Games, the game leads players through simulations of real-life events, such as Gandhi's struggle for Indian independence, the civil rights movement in the American South, and Otpor's protests in Serbia.
"Young people grew up with video games," said Marovic, "and they take the medium seriously."
The game doesn't require an itchy trigger finger or keen hand-to-eye coordination; rather, it relies entirely on strategy. As well as historical recreations, players can set up their own scenarios, based on their own situation on the ground, and experiment with different nonviolent strategies. The game's artificial intelligence calculates the results.
"You start with just a couple of students under your control, so you plan parties and meetings, working within society to build up the strength of your group," said BreakAway CEO Douglas Whatley, outlining one possible game scenario.
"You have to worry about your organization," he continued. "Do you set up a hierarchal organization, or a cell-based one? Who is the best figurehead for the media? What kind of training do people need? And if you march on the capital without proper controls, things may turn violent, which will harm your cause. These are the things people can learn."
"You can have a 'what if' approach," Marovic said. "Play the same game several times, but try different things every time. You can't do that with books. This interaction makes a player spend more time with a game than with a movie. Weeks, instead of hours."
A Force More Powerful is the follow-up to a PBS documentary on the history of nonviolent resistance that aired in 2000. Last year, the documentary's producers asked Marovic, a self-confessed "computer geek," to help BreakAway create a game version.
"The idea was to use the game to transfer knowledge about nonviolent action," said Marovic. "The game can help more than movies and books because activists can simulate different situations and try different strategies before they try them in real life."
Marovic sees games as a weapon of change, and so does BreakAway Games. For the last few years, the Maryland-based developer has been a leader in what it calls "serious games."
The company has worked closely with various arms of the Department of Defense to create military training and war-game simulations, and has also worked with health care professionals to develop Code Orange, a game that helps doctors learn to manage mass-casualty emergencies.
"The logical extension of this," said BreakAway President Deb Tillett, "is that through our work with ICNC, we can help people change their repressive regimes."
A Force More Powerful will initially be distributed on CD, accompanied by extensive documentation and research material on nonviolent resistance. ICNC's aim is to sell the title to gamers in the United States, but distribute it free to international groups.
"Every group thinks that it is the one that needs freedom the most, and that their country is most in need of a pro-democracy movement," said Marovic. "The good thing about this game is that it can reach all of them at the same time, even if trainers like me can't."
[Ovu poruku je menjao mungos dana 28.10.2005. u 11:33 GMT+1]