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Video Games Promote Peace and Democracy


Video games are fun, but besides providing entertainment, some of them actually teach people how to resolve global conflicts without violence. Several organizations are using video games and other virtual simulations to promote peace, build democracies and support for disaster relief.

War and drought have put people on this imaginary island on the brink of starvation. Millions of them will die unless food is airlifted to them.

This is the premise of "Food Force," a free Internet download from the UN World Food Programme that helps children understand the challenges of getting food into war zones.

Spokeswoman Jennifer Parmalee says the game has been translated into 17 languages. "It helps them feel like they can be part of a solution. That's something that's empowering and fun for them," she said.

Another video game, "A Force More Powerful," demonstrates non-violent strategies to help remove oppressive governments.

It takes place in a fictional city reminiscent of Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia.

Ten years ago, the game's designer, Ivan Marovic was a leader in a non-violent movement calling for the removal of President Slobodan Milosevic.

Marovic was a university student who organized demonstrations that led to the ouster of the president. Milosovic resigned after disputed election results in 2000. He was arrested and tried for war crimes in the Hague but died before the proceedings finished.

Marovic incorporated tactics into the game which he says can be used to fight oppressive governments around the world. "Like strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience, street protests, in order to force the regime either to concede or to step down," he explains.

He says another aim is to win the hearts and minds of the people. "The goal of the non-violent struggle is to win over people who are supporting the regime, and to cause loyalties to shift," he says, "and also to increase the enthusiasm of the people who are on your side."

In this virtual world, the focus is on the conflict in the Darfur region in western Sudan. There has been a sharp decrease in violence there over the past year. But after years of clashes between rebels and militias supported by Sudan's government, three million people have been displaced.

An anonymous person created the scenario in the Darfur video game using "Second Life," an Internet site where users can build their own virtual world and talk with others through voice and text chats.

Scott Sechser works for Linden Lab, which created "Second Life." "Someone has gone in to create an environment that allows others to come in and see what is taking place in Darfur, listen to a family who left Darfur, and is now in a refugee camp," he explains.

Sechser says he can communicate with people from around the world since text chats on "Second Life" can be translated into many languages. "I've talked to people from Japan," he says, "I could type in words that would be automatically translated into Japanese."

Sechser says there are many other scenarios on "Second Life" that promote democracy and conflict resolution. They include a courtroom where people can learn about legal systems in a democracy.

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