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The first video game was released on the 25th of January, 1947. Emulating a radar display screen, players were charged with the duty of intercepting a shower of 2-dimensional missiles falling from the sky. Despite this breakthrough, the ensuing decade welcomed a mere trickle of additional games.
On the 25th of January 2013, nearly 70 years later, the Global Game Jam demonstrates the more recent global flood of gaming innovation and activity on an e-biblical scale: 319 participating sites in 63 countries engaged with over 3,000 gaming projects.
An idea long suspected and now established with certainty is that playing video games changes us. When considered alongside the dominance of games replete with violence and treachery, this influence can only be understood as hazardous.
Imagine the potentially positive effects of a gaming industry premised on the ethical and cooperative treatment of others: online and in the flesh.
Village Voices, the result of a University of Malta project to teach students conflict resolution skills, is one such ethical video game.
Informed by modern theories of conflict resolution and education, Village Voices places students in a multiplayer virtual village inhabited by other students and AI characters. Using high-end game adaptation technology, Village Voices creates a personalised model of each players’ disposition and skill level. During play, students encounter conflict with other players that must be resolved appropriately in order to progress and eventually succeed. Conflict involves the players’ interaction histories and teaches vital life-skills including exploring competing perspectives, emotional management, communication skills, creative and critical thinking.
The intensity of conflict is tailored by a player’s skill level and conflict that escalates to a predetermined intensity threshold can be de-escalated by the introduction of common enemies or the discovery of alternative resources.
This project is one of a growing movement to access the powerful influence of video game narratives for the purpose of communicating with a generation enthralled by increasingly captivating, and often violent, virtual worlds.