The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has raged for over 70 years as a result of religious intolerance, nationalism, and cycles of revenge. The tension is heavily politicized, resulting in stalemates in peace negotiations as Israeli and Palestinian leaders fear being voted out of office or angering allies. Hostility and outbreaks of violence involve a range of actors from the Israeli military to Palestinian extremist groups to pan-Arab leaders. The frustrations and prejudices of the conflict become the attitudes of Israelis and Palestinians alike as well as warp the perceptions of those who are neither, producing a conflict not only of territory but also of heart.
Game design studio Impact Games designed the PeaceMaker game, which was created with the belief that conflict can be ended but also that ending conflict requires deliberate work at peace. The game is a turn-based strategy game where players can play the seat of either the Israeli prime minister or the president of the Palestinian Authority to construct a virtual end to the conflict. The game is won with the establishment of a two-state solution. The game is intended to demonstrate how small actions lead to a gradual solution through simulation aided by technology.
Peace Engineering Takeaway
Impact Games was founded with the mission of developing games that not only entertained participants but also engaged, informed, and activated them. The application of technology to put people in others' shoes can aid the facilitation of dialogue and jumpstart peace processes by changing public opinion. A study from Carnegie Mellon indicated that nearly 40% of players couldn't win once in four tries.
In a blog post, game co-designer Asi Burak writes, “In the course of making PeaceMaker, it was necessary to make certain assumptions and statements about things that are not really known in order to bring the game into being. We admit that these core assumptions are debatable issues, and we encourage exploration of them...The end, ‘winning condition' of the PeaceMaker simulation is the two-state solution. This may sound controversial to some, but is the consensus of a majority of those that desire a peaceful solution, and is the aim of past peace talks, UN resolutions, and the USA-backed ‘road map.' Even though we end the scope of our game there, however, that does not mean that every problem and every concern has been addressed, or that the violence has completely stopped. We simply must choose a limit to the scope of the simulation. We welcome other views and encourage discussion about the validity of that solution.”