When it comes to divisive political and cultural issues, the old adage “walk a mile in their shoes” seems impossible at best. The makers of the online learning experience PeaceMaker believe that doing just that can foster understanding and empathy about one of the most problematic diplomatic issues of recent memory, the Palestinian and Israeli conflict.
Players of PeaceMaker can choose to become either the Israeli Prime Minister or the Palestinian president in this game that integrates real news reports with political strategy. The goal is both simple and audacious: end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Players can choose from several levels; calm, tense, violent, to customize their experience, which teachers can take advantage of to supervise the content, and can be played in English, Hebrew, or Arabic.
The game designers based the game on several key assumptions that are both realistic and entirely idealistic, but which may communicate to students how difficult it is to solve big problems. The design assumes that the other side wants peace, that any one leader lacks complete control, that small steps make a real difference, and that a two-state solution is the only way out of the conflict. Cynics may suggest that the first assumption is not valid, and either side may suggest that a two-state solution is unacceptable, but the assumptions force players to see compromise as the solution.
Navigating the real life scenarios thrown at you as a player can be frustrating, as the simple controls can limit the information you have to make decisions, but the possibilities here are really endless in terms of education. Want to immerse students in current events or help teach complex problem solving skills?
PeaceMaker helps by allowing students to actually experience the weighty decisions faced by leaders in the world. The real life news footage and events may also help open students’ eyes to what it’s like to live in a region of the world entirely different than their own. That, alone, would likely be an eye-opening experience.
PeaceMaker is not a game that you can play again and again once you have achieved peace. Its goal is really to take the player through the process, to experience the frustration of diplomacy and the heartbreak of failure. Though it’s not a game that would likely appeal to students over and over again, it would make a stunning and thought-provoking addition to a current events unit for older students.