Video Gaming Politics

Also in the Bullentin of the Atomic Scientist, Josh Schollmeyer on using video games to instruct about war, peace, genocide, democracy and dictatorship, and political ethics.

[I]n Pax Warrior, a blend of documentary film and game that places high school and college students in the role of the head U.N. peacekeeper during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, “winning” is relative. No player stops the genocide. Hamstrung by the same historical constraints that faced Lt. Gen. Roméo Dallaire, the actual commander of the U.N. peacekeeping mission to Rwanda at the time, the students try to save as many lives as possible given the circumstances. “Pax teaches you how good intentions are not enough,” says Andreas Ua’Siaghail, the game’s co-creator. “It tests an individual’s valor in a historical context.”

That’s partly the value of serious games–to allow users to fail again and again without real-world repercussions–what Rejeski calls “failing softly.” It’s why the U.S. military understands the utility of games so intuitively. The military reasons that if soldiers lose fake lives in simulations, it better hones their ability to survive on the real battlefield. Similar thinking is now taking hold in firehouses, police stations, and hospitals–the frontlines in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack.