Monday, September 18, 2006

Policy Conflict Games

Wired News: New Games To Tackle Middle East Conflict
In contrast to the gritty, street-level view of Palestine, ImpactGames' PeaceMaker takes a high-status approach.

Here you can choose to be the Palestinian president or the prime minister of Israel. Instead of Palestine's adventure-RPG style, PeaceMaker takes the 1,000-foot-view of a turn-based strategy game.

After you make your choices, PeaceMaker uses old news clips to piece together realistic stories out of the Middle East, showing you the consequences of your leadership -- positive or negative. Television conveys events passively, explains game creator Asi Burak.

"Here we show it as something you chose to do," Burak says....

Raph Koster, author of A Theory of Fun for Game Design and one of the creators of Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies, says that games with a political message are nearly as old as gaming.

In 1985, Balance of Power tackled Cold War brinkmanship under a thermonuclear threat. In 1988, Hidden Agenda allowed you to play a South American dictator, balancing the threats of insurrection and coup d'├ętat against meddling U.S. and Russian influence.
Balance of Power was a great game modeling the Soviet Union versus American international politics that the typical warhawk gamers hated. If you started a nuclear war you lost, everyone lost. You had to play smart, not be a wimp but not let your emotions run away. The warhawks that played the game should have played it from the Russian side more - you learned their influence limitations.

I hadn't realized a sequel was made. The sequel sounds more like his original conception of the game based on the designer's book I have. He also talks about the development in another book which has the chapter online. Seems the 1990 edition was a pretty accurate simulation, which was also some views of the first edition. Balance of Power is considered a public policy game which I like.

The original Apple version is available as a free download as abandonware with the typical hacker idiot review.