Playing for Keeps

Playing for Keeps
Gaming for Change

Troy Goodfellow | 30 Jan 2007 07:01
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The generalissimo seemed weaker than the briefing had led us to believe. Our resistance movement had already sapped the loyalty of the radio station and the national courts. Maybe one big demonstration would be enough to turn them completely and put the tyrant on the run. So, we scheduled a rock concert in the park and distributed fliers around the capital.

Big mistake. The army acted quickly, rounding up the leadership of the resistance and shooting them. Our once promising movement was reduced to an old man and a student, neither of whom had any useful organizational skills. The dictator would remain in power.

This is one of the big lessons of A Force More Powerful, the non-violent conflict simulation developed by BreakAway Games in partnership with The International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. "Many activist groups have a tendency to want to do something to get attention," Hardy Merriman, the Director of Programs and Research at ICNC, explains. "A Force More Powerful disincentivizes constant action because movements can get quashed before they have the capacity to effectively resist." For gamers programmed to push for constant action, it's a notable change in philosophy.

One could argue that the entire idea of A Force More Powerful is a change in philosophy from most games. Though all of us are familiar with the setup - unsavory leadership oppresses the people and must be humbled - AFMP forces you to confront the challenge through entirely non-violent means. "The game is still confrontational," says BreakAway's lead designer, Ananda Gupta. "You have to stand up to the r

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