Video games drawing the youth of Israel towards a healthy challenge – Games For Peace.
A piece of fact: By the age of 21, children have already spent 10,000 hours of their lives playing online games. The number alone is equal to the sum of hours spent in all of the middle and high school.
“That opened my eyes to the potential impact that games can have on young minds, for good or bad,” says Uri Mishol, Israeli software executive, after learning this mind-boggling piece of factoid at the 2013 Games for Change Festival in New York.
He throws light on the advantage that game developers have of promoting trust, tolerance and anti-racism among the youth with video games. The indication is towards Games for Peace– An initiative to bridge the gap between youth in conflict zones via a shared experience of gaming that requires communication and collaboration within a virtual world. G4P took the already popular international games to attain the goal rather than beginning the entire process with a whole new game.
The organisation stood proudly in The Intercultural Innovation Award Ceremony of 2017, as it received the Intercultural Innovation Award alongside nine other grassroots organisations. The award was for Play2Talk. It is a school program that uses Minecraft (a very popular game) to reduce stereotypes between Arab and Jewish schoolchildren in Israel. The prejudices are seen to be disappearing in the set-up of mixed teams and face-to-face meetings where children can discover the real faces behind the game avatars. It promotes intercultural dialogue and understanding among the school children, thus conveying peace and togetherness.
Minecraft belongs to the genre of Sandbox Games brought to life by Mojang Studios. It was released in November 2011 and has been one of the highest sold video games ever since. By 2020 Minecraft had 126 million active users and sold 200 million copies. Players can enjoy an array of contests ranging from simple clicker games, to high-end shooting games. And, from the classic mining challenges to Minecraft’s resourceful educational edition.
Games for Peace enables kids across the Middle East to play Minecraft games from the safety of their home or schools. The first way to do so is through periodic Play for Peace weekends. The first session had about 100 players in early 2014. Automatic translations were incorporated into the chat feature of the game to facilitate natural conversation in multiple languages among the players.
In the second Games for Peace platform (weekly Play2talk Minecraft session) mixed teams from a Jewish and an Arab school come out to play. Avatars are used and the children move through several virtual construction challenges that require cooperation, communication and reliance among team members.
Gradually the students exchange information about their lives and their interests and meet each other in a neutral location after the completion of the task.
G4P has touched several other nations like Georgia, Ireland and India with its powerful message, and there is no doubt that it would spread across the planet in no time.
It might take a very long time for the world to bow seeds of world-peace and ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ in the heart of the upcoming generation. But, Games 4 Peace has at least begun the process. Talking about harmony in Israel, Mishol says, “Helping their team win the challenge is sometimes more powerful than the preconceptions they have about each other”.