Players Experience Palestinian Conflict Through New Game

October 31, 2006 -

Students in Denmark will soon have an opportunity to explore the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict thanks to a new PC game.

Reuters reports that Global Conflicts: Palestine puts players into the role of a journalist on assignment in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

In order to gather their story, players can interview civilians, soldiers and militants. When they've finished collecting information, players write an article on the conflict and receive a grade, determined by the game

Simon Egenfeldt-Nielsen, one of the game's designers, spoke to Reuters about the project:
 

The goal for them is to recognize there are different perspectives, that the story can be also be told in different perspectives...


Perhaps surprisingly, the game does not force a neutral journalistic view on the student. Egenfeldt-Nielsen noted:
 

You can steer the dialogue in the direction you want. For a pro-Israeli story, focus on how the IDF (Israeli military) perceives it. If you take a pro-Palestinian approach, you can dig deeper -- interview the suspect or his son.


In-game characters will provide different answers based on their perception of the reporter's bias. A pro-Palestinian journalist, for example, will likely get better quotes from a militant than would a neutral or pro-Israeli scribe.

Egenfeldt-Nielsen hopes to distribute the game to other European nations early next year. 

GP Shout-out: We thank reader Mike Silvay for pointing us at this story!


Comments

Perhaps surprisingly, the game does not force a neutral journalistic view on the student.

Then again, it acknowledges that in reality, all reporters have some inherent bias, and this will affect how their story is told. It's hard to be objective. Perhaps they were trying to illustrate that while having a bias gets you more info from your favoured "side", it results in your story being slanted one way or the other, which denies your readers a portion of the story.

A good stepping stone for a class discussion. :)
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

I'm from Israel- this sounds very intresting. Will you pubkish more info aobut this as it comes up?

Heard about this on the radio a while ago. preety neat.

Jabrwock nails it. A good journalist, though, is able to keep that bias out of the story. I've worked with people who can put the subject at ease, no matter which side of the story. It's really about being up front with the interview subject; people can tell when you are faking sincerity.

I wonder if those subtleties are in the game?

Thanks, Mike Silvay. This is an incredibly interesting project.

Hope it is okay to follow the discussion - really interesting input for us developers, and most of the ideas you have that goes beyond the game is something we are hoping will happen.

In regard to Brer:
1). There is a encyklopedia with the game that allow you to drill into the finer details, although it is of course difficult to provide the entire complexity of the issue way back to ancient times. I can understand your distrust of West Europa that tend to take quite a different stand than for example the US.

2). There will be an extensive online resource with the game that wil make up for some of the shortcomings of the game (and the encyklopedia). We also hope that the game will spark an interest among people to discuss the issues at hand, and that way go beyond the game.

3). The game is not meant as a standalone resource but is build around links with other educational material and practice like teacher talks, textbooks, web resources, group discussions and class discussions.

Regarding intentions - lets just say that we are trying hard to stay neutral.

Best,

Simon

@Brer (the only one who seems to follow this thread, apart from Simon :P)

Agreed.

Attachment was probably not the best choice of words, but I think it is possible to become attached to the subject itself rather than what that subject is portraying. It is possible to become emotionally involved in a subject without being biased towards either party. That's why ancient history is so popular, people don't really care what happened to the people in history for the most part, they don't feel attached to either the rapers and pillagers or the victims. (Talking ancient, ancient history here) They just analyze it and find it interesting, and try to learn from past mistakes and reconstruct the true history. I would argue that anything in which you really engage in intellectualy, you will become attached.

Having said that, being attached to the issue or attached to one side of the argument are different entities entirely, but I must agree that it was a bit of a grey word in my dialogue. What I'm proposing is not a complete replacement of traditional study for a game, but rather, incorporate essays and hyperlinks etc. into the worldspace which I believe is what Simon was kind of aiming for. But rather than just provide an external link, include the articles on paper or on screen in game. After all, I doubt this game was created to provide the same level of fun as Battlefield 2 or WoW, instead was created to 'intellectually engage' the players.

Disturbingly enough, i bet this will cause the people over there to riot, kind of like the whole thing with the mohammad cartoons.

This really is an interesting project. While the game itself cannot be said to be biased towards one social view or the other, it certainly gives those options to the players. You could almost draw a parallel between the way this and the ESRB work, the material for deciding the outcome has been provided, and it is up to the buyer/player to do what they will with the information.

Personally, I think we need more projects in the socio-political genre. As long as they aren't developed by religious extremists or actually created to be biased in one way or another, it opens up a whole new field of study and immersion into these touchy subjects. In fact, it's probably the next closest thing to going to these countries yourselves and actually interviewing the people themselves.

The same format can be applied to many different things also, not just military controversy. Politics (a game where you can interview JT maybe...? :P), medicine, history are just a few subjects which could be interpreted this way. I think, like movies, there is going to be a shift in gaming over the next few years to many more games or interactive worldspaces that actually dive nosedeep into many real life situations or give the player the opportunity to analyse some important aspect of human society, past or present.

Personally, I welcome the ability to have all the information given to me in a format that I can explore and interpret in my own way, at my own pace rather than having to sit through, say, a 1 hr biased FOX documentary on the horrors of the third world or whatever.

BTW, sorry bout the rant but as a developer it's something I'm rather passionate about and I do think we need a shift towards these issues to PROVE that gaming is not just for kids, that it can be an extremely cerebral and relevant activity for the modern world.

Now.. lets take the JT spin on things....

"This game is actually a terrorist training tool that allows you to exploit Media properganda and is most defently harmful for *cough* Children. It is in line with similar mental molestation of the nazies."


(Okay... my head hurts now..)

I have to express a more skeptical opinion here. While the goal of this sort of project -may- bconflict. To get that you have to go back and study the history of the region, the e noble, and while I agree that games can make incredibly effective teaching aids, they should never be taken as a one-stop resource for any issue, let alone one with as much historical and political baggage as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Right now you could go out and interview two dozen Palestinians and another two dozen Israelis, get a good mix of soldiers, militants, and civilians, and still not get an accurate picture of the history or even the nature of the conflict. To get that you have to study the history going back to at least 1910 or so, the historical and modern geopolitical landscape, and THEN go and study what the current occupants of the region have to say.

Frankly, while I love video games and as I said I think they have real potential as learning tools, I distrust A) the ability of a game like this to convey the amount of material necessary to really understand the nature of the conflict, and B) the intentions and integrity of the game designers and the scholars involved in the project.

While I'd like to believe that it's really about getting at the truth of the matter, I've seen entirely too much anti-Israel bias on the part of academia (-especially- coming out of western Europe) to have a warm fuzzy about the game. If it's made available publically I'll certainly take a look, but I have my doubts...

Brer,

Those same arguments hold true for any kid of interprative media. It is extremely hard to be a journalist and remain completely unbiased, either by personal opinion or via the omission of some piece of information, accidental or manipulation. I'm not saying that games should be the only resource for studying these issues. Perhaps I should have been more clear in my views: I think games have the potential to portray the situations far clearer than traditional written medias because they allow the player to be involved directly in the situation, and develop a visual and played attachment that they could not otherwise maintain.

And yes, like any other form of the media, it is how the developers/publishers portray the worldspace that may subconsciously introduce bias. Certainly, given enough time, designers can aspire to build truly unbiased works based on the information that they themselves have obtained; much like true journalists try and remain wholly unbiased.

@Juggernautz

"I think games have the potential to portray the situations far clearer than traditional written medias because they allow the player to be involved directly in the situation, and develop a visual and played attachment that they could not otherwise maintain."

Two basic problems there: First, games simply cannot conveniently convey the amount of detailed information that a well-researched report or book can without becoming cumbersomely long (For comparison, you'd need a game with three or four times as much information conveyed as Planescape: Torment, all of it available on a single playthrough) and uninteractive.

Second, you're absolutely correct that games can help people develop an attachment to a situation. That's a BAD thing. Attachment and sentiment are hard enough to compartmentalize for professionals with experience in setting aside those concerns in order to do a job or make a judgement call. For the majority of the people who would play this game, that attachment would lead to an impaired ability to assess the situation and come to a detached and thoroughly thought-out conclusion about it.

"much like true journalists try and remain wholly unbiased."

An interesting definition of "true journalist", if not a very realistic one.

@Simon

Good, although I'd argue that the issue doesn't -go- back to ancient times. You had Palestinians and Jews living together quietly and relatively harmoniously (albeit with far fewer jews than before the Diaspora and the desctruction of the second Temple) as late as the first decade of the 20th century.

As for neutrality, that's a somewhat suspect term. Being -objective- is good. Taking a position of -forced- and arbitrary neutrality where every point of view is given equal weight regardless of the logical, factual, or ethical content of that view is not. And it's that second sort of pernicious "neutrality" that does more harm than good when it comes to education.

Finally, as for distrust, it goes a bit beyond that: There's rampant misreporting, distortions, and outright lies everywhere in the MSM when it comes to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The photo of Tuvia Grossman during the Al-Aqsa Intifada is an excellent example. The deliberate deceptions aided and abetted by the AP and Reuters more recently are another (and that issue goes far, far beyond the work of Adnan Hajj, even though he was the only photographer to be called to account by either agency). The Mohammed Al-Dura video tape is yet another.

@Simon:

Just interested, are there any points of reference within the game that point to outside resources, say, an excerpt from a book or article found within the game. This may be the simple way of introducing outside resources without just having one line print saying "go to http://www.inefficientreferences.com" in the manual :D.

Good to see the developer taking interest in GP, and giving reasons for the points raised here, makes these kinds of discussions worthwile.

@Brer:
I understand your point of view, but it seems that your arguments against using games as journalistic tools are a) they can't present enough information and b) they will be biased. I'm sure you have more arguments than that, but those are the two I take most issue with. As for not presenting enough information, that simply is not true. Consider a simple essay or written journal of these conflicts may go for 20 pages. The script for Planescape: Torment was over 300 pages of just dialogue. Of course, you can argue that this was because of the amount of choice the player had, and that is definitely valid. However, the amount of information delivered is epic in proportion because of its genre, and I am guessing that with GC:P, you won't have 20 different dialogue choices based on your character's stats.

As for being biased, that's always going to be a problem. Games are like any other media, it is up to the creator what they wish to portray with it. But, like written media, you can take games with a grain of salt if you feel the authors/designers are untrustworthy or particularly biased. Like I said, the game shouldn't be used as a main resource, much like an internet site is not regarded as a major resource for any post-grad subject.

I think games SHOULD be able to be used as a resource. There is no reason why I shouldn't be able to list GC:P in my bibliography if I was studying the Israeli-Palestine conflict. It is games like these that will start to change the way people perceive our media of choice, and I hope that a lot of interest is generated by this, if only so other people try similar projects.

@Juggernautz

My point was actually that in order for a single game to convey an accurate picture of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it would have to present even -more- information than contained in a dialogue-heavy game like Torment, and do it -all at once-. I agree that a game can provide more info to the player than a journal article, and could be a valuable teaching tool. But at best it can only -supplement- the information provided by traditional study. A game like this doesn't come close to -replacing- a book on the subject as a source of understanding or even raw factual information.

And it's not -bias- I was complaining about, it was "attachment" (your word, not mine). You were talking about it being a good thing to get people "attached" to the issue, and I was disagreeing. Let me restate my position a little more precisely: Intellectual engagement is good. Emotional attachment, on the other hand, is often NOT. It can and does cloud people's judgement and their reasoning faculties, actually preventing them from seeing and pursuing solutions.
 
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