Discussion Forum: Peace Building and Gaming: How Can Gamification Technology Change Our Approach to Conflict Transformation

Discussion Forum: Peace Building and Gaming: How Can Gamification Technology Change Our Approach to Conflict Transformation

The era of technology offers a great opportunity for peace workers and proponents of conflict transformation to use technological platforms to reach people across the globe and make a more powerful impact. The current uptake of technology in peacework includes the use of games, apps, mobile platforms, social media, and big data.

Specifically, gaming has become a multi­billion dollar industry. Research firm DFC Intelligence estimates that the worldwide video game industry is poised to reach $70.1 billion by 2015 due to the combined growth of console, portable, PC, and online video games. Yet many popular games offer violence driven games even for young people. Games for Change has identified a lack of ‘peace­-themed games’ but states that it is an industry that is slowly growing.

We, the Peace Superheroes team, (Sabrina and Marianne, the facilitators) are developing a Peace Superheroes digital game so we are seeing first-hand the opportunities and challenges in this space.

We invite participants to share their thoughts and ideas including projects they are currently working on or wish to develop. We also see this forum as an opportunity to harvest and share resources amongst participants around the use of gaming technologies in ADR and peace work. 

Moderator Bios:

Sabrina Patrick-Urrutia

Sabrina started out her career in Australia after completing a Psychology degree which landed her with her first job as a community counselor. Sabrina's passion and vocation have always lied in her commitment to help others and make a positive and significant social impact.

Sabrina moved on to complete a Master's degree in Human Resource Management to be able to successfully business partner with NFP leaders and executive teams to achieve greater impact and outcomes.

As a result, Sabrina has over 10 years experience in senior management across different sectors. This has consisted in living and working across several countries including the Mexico, UK and Papua New Guinea.

Sabrina also completed a Master's Degree in Peace and Conflict studies in the University of Sydney. She is passionate about conflict transformation and peace building. Her project management experience and interest in social justice has led for her to co-found a global team with two other peace proponents, who are working on Peace SuperHeroes, game design to teach young people/ children how to learn conflict transformation skills and make more positive choices under stressful situations. Gaming is a platform that combines her interest and belief that technology is a great tool to use to resolve many of today's problems.

Marianne Perez de Fransius      

Marianne Perez de Fransius helps people see the value of and access peace in their daily lives so that we can all live in a better world. She does this by rebranding peace as sexy, possible, profitable, and fun; teaching middle school kids peace and conflict transformation skills through video games; and helping parents travel the world with their babies. Marianne never felt like she fit in because she was born in Brazil of a French father and an American mother and was brought up in the Sephardic Jewish tradition. But growing up in a multicultural household and experiencing an international education, Marianne has seen over and over again the power of people to connect despite all their differences. Her bachelors degree is in international relations from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and her masters in peace and conflict studies from the European Peace University where her thesis was on "Moving Mainstream Media Towards a Culture of Peace." Marianne is also the author of "The Dreaded Conversation Workbook: Navigate Dreaded Conversations with Ease."


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Hi everyone--

Welcome to the discussion forum on "Peace Building and Gaming: How Can Gamification Technology Change Our Approach to Conflict Transformation"! We're excited to be running this forum between now and Friday and we hope you'll actively participate. Firstly, we'd love for everyone to introduce themselves and tell a little bit about your interest and/or experience with gaming.


Here's a video that we put together last year for UNDP's and UNAOC's PEACEapp contest (which we won!) so you can learn a little bit about the Peace Superheroes.

Since then, we've benefited from a mentorship with Games for Change, been invited to speak at a couple conferences and we are now working with 2 teams who are building prototypes for us.


Please introduce yourselves. Also feel free to introduce any topics you would like to discuss throughout the week.


Peace on!

Marianne and Sabrina


How are the development efforts going? The concept seems good, but I'm interested in some of the technical details about how a game like this would work and teach all the various things you're trying to.

Hi Allen--

Thanks for your question. As we're in the prototyping stage right now, we're not entirely sure how it will work yet as we have yet to test it out. But one of the things we've realized over the past year (since we made that video) is that our scope is probably too large in terms of all the skills we're trying to expose players to. I'm feeling like we've bitten off more than we can chew. Although one way to do it would be by making it a strategy game and giving players different options in how to act in a situation and depending on which option they choose certain scenarios follow. 

Are you developing a game yourself? What's your interest in gaming? 

I'm a web developer and have built a few very simplistic games in my spare time. I definitely agree that the idea you have is very ambitious and that's a very smart thing to recognize that and try to scale it back a little.

Additionally, as we ralized that the game became 'too huge', we decided to break it down into mini games. That way, it can still capture all the themes and areas of interests from our perspective but it allows us to have building blocks into the game.

At this stage, the prototype is building 1-2 mini games.

This "game" is very much an important reflection of the future of educational publishing for many disciplines. 

How do you find the response to the game idea? Is it more favored by educational settings or business? Any demographics on who is most interested - who most uses?

Hi Teresa--

Originally we conceived of the Peace Superheroes as a comic book series, but parents were telling us that while they loved the idea, their kids didn't read books (not even comic books) and they spent most of their time on smartphones, tablets or computers. So we decided to pivot and revamped the concept into a video game. Immediately we got an enthusiastic response from parents and from funding institutions. We also were able to identify a lot more grants for game and technology related projects than for a comic book. 

Our initial focus group is 9-11 year olds in suburban US. But we hope to expand to other groups as well. 

We've also been advised to look into partnering opportunities with educational publishers. Do you have any experience with that? 

Hi. I've posted a longer comment attached to the initial forum description, but wanted to also share the link to the PeaceCorps Challenge online game, as it seems to be relevant to learning about others via gaming, and developing empathy and compassion along the way. Happy we are talking about gaming and peacemaking!

I'm very keen on the idea of using games to teach conflict resolution skills and concepts. One already developed example that I quite liked was the Cool School game developed for elementary level kids using grant funds from FMCS. It can be played online here (it was ported to the web a few years ago).  I hosted a webinar with the game creators back in 2009 and the slides are available online. The other game that was featured was a now commercial game called Harmony Island, also quite good, that was developed with support from the NIH. The slides about Harmony Island are also available online.

What was fascinating for me in talking with these game creators is how important understanding of youth development and cognitive abilities as kids develop can be in making a really good and useful game. 

I'm interested to learn more about how Peace Superheroes is shaping up and I'd be happy to feature it over at CREducation.org when it is ready for public review. 

Regarding the application of gamification concepts to ODR, I think we can learn a good deal from the various strategies game developers use to let parties know where they are in a game sequence, to provide progress bars for completion of profiles, etc. as well as tapping into people's interest in solving puzzles and maximizing outcomes. I'd love to think together more about this, and hear from folks that are working these kind of elements (and others I have't mentioned) into their online dispute resolution tool kits.

Hi Bill--

Thanks for your input and all the great resources and links you're sharing. I'll definitely check them all out. 

What is FMCS? 

Something I would love to do with the Peace Superheroes is work in more of a child psychology aspect to precisely address what you are talking about. So that we're setting up the challenges etc at an appropriate level for each age group. Do you have any thoughts about how we might connect with child psychologists or educators that have a good grasp of cognitive development? 

FMCS stands for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Usually they just deal with workplace conflict in the federal sector, but there was a push to work more with youth for a time, and thus this game.

Regarding child psychology and negotiation and conflict resolution, I think the place to start for research would with the work of Robert Selman from the Harvard School of Education. This wikipedia article on Role-Taking Theory spells it out pretty well. 

The ideas is that, with experience and guidance, children generally move through five levels of perspective-taking following this pattern:

  • First, at Level 0, “undifferentiated perspective-taking” (ages 3-6), they do not recognize that others have feelings, ideas or views different from their own.
  • At Level 1, “social-informational perspective-taking” (ages 5-9), young children begin to realize that others might have different feelings or views than their own, but can’t consider what these might be, especially if those views or feelings are in opposition.
  • At Level 2, “self-reflective perspective-taking” (ages 7-12), children begin to be able to consider the opinions and feelings of someone else as well as their own.
  • Levels 3, “third-party perspective-taking” (ages 10-15) and 4, “societal perspective-taking” (ages 14-adult), which usually do not emerge until adolescence, allow increasing abilities to predict, understand and coordinate various perspectives.

Thinking about ways to help move students along in their development of negotiation skills would be important.

This educator-focused SEL "primer" pulls some of this together with the issues of peer influence. 

For a deeper dive, you might check out these articles provide in the primer and from my own explorations:

Yeates, K. O., Schultz, L. H., & Selman, R. L.. (1991). The Development of Interpersonal Negotiation Strategies in Thought and Action: A Social-Cognitive Link to Behavioral Adjustment and Social Status. Merrill-palmer Quarterly, 37(3), 369–405. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23087396

Laursen, B., Finkelstein, B. D., & Betts, N. T. (2001). ‘A developmental meta-analysis of peer conflict resolution‘. Developmental Review, 21, pp. 423–449

Selman, R. L., Beardslee, W., Schultz, L. H., Krupa, M., & Podorefsky, D. (1986). ‘Assessing adolescent interpersonal negotiation strategies: Toward the integration of structural and functional models‘. Developmental Psychology, 22, pp. 450–459

Vernberg, E. M., Ewell, K. K., Beery, S. H., & Abwender, D. A. (1994). ‘Sophistication of adolescents’ interpersonal negotiation strategies and friendship formation after relocation: A naturally occurring experiment‘. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 4, pp. 5–19


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