Can An Occupy-Themed Video Game Be a Training Tool for Activists?

 The predominant stereotype about gamers is that they're either socially awkward, crazy-eyed shut-ins, or fat stoners who get a rush off vicarious violence. Both of those are wrong (most of the time)! But here's another piece of evidence to the contrary: a video game developer has made a new platform to help train activists and protesters in strategy, like chess:

"People Power (The Game of Civil Resistance)" allows would-be protest leaders to build and test their plans for peacefully opposing the police or the government without actually hitting the streets.

The game, which promises "an opportunity to join a community of others who want to learn about civil resistance and nonviolent strategies," was created by York Zimmerman Inc, along with the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.

"We certainly did not aim at a mass audience," said Steve York, "People Power" executive producer. "I suppose it's not for everyone, certainly not casual players wanting to be entertained."

"People Power" is actually a sequel to 2008's "A Force More Powerful" by the same company which was meant to teach protesters strategies for better non-violent resistance, and uses "the social graph as a gameplay mechanic." But if you're looking for a more traditional video game experience, there's also "Occupy the Game," which simulates the hairier parts of the Occupy reality ("Collect money, water and the Constitution. Dodge the tear gas, bean bags and flash grenades thrown by riot police. Don't get arrested!"). There's also "Occupy America: the Commemorative Game," launched by NPR (ironic, no?) which involves dice-rolling, tent-pitching and roving protesting.

But is it a stand-in for actual protest? Maybe, but it could also raise money for the movement:

"Games are another medium in which new technologies can be used to empower people through education and potential fundraising," said Hanni Fakhoury of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which promotes online freedom of expression.

"I think even more interestingly, videogames could raise money in support of protesters," he told AFP, citing "Humble Bundle," which offers games for whatever the player can pay, with money going to the organization they name.

"People may feel more comfortable contributing in these ways, rather than going to a Occupy camp where law enforcement presence is strong," he added.

So even if there are some shut-ins, you can't belittle their power to do good from the comfort of their own couch. 

AlterNet / By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Posted at December 5, 2011, 5:05am

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