Peace Building Game On

A computer lab in Ochamchira. July 2013. Photo: Zoran Stevanovic/UNDP
A computer lab in Ochamchira. July 2013. Photo: Zoran Stevanovic/UNDP

What do online gaming and peacebuilding have in common? A simple answer is they both need people to do the job together. To succeed in both building peace and network gaming, you have to be willing to communicate openly.

Amiran Toronjadze, student:

  • "I have made a lot of friends via online games. I am confident that soon I will see Abkhaz peers among them.”

Tech specialists from Elva Community Engagement, an online platform based in Tbilisi, believe that tech-driven initiatives have strong potential to be a gateway for peace with Abkhaz and Georgian youth.

They are currently developing an online game that will connect peers from across the dividing lines, with the goal of transforming them into peace brokers of their own. For Elva’s advocacy director, Mark van Embden Andres this makes perfect sense:

“Youth worldwide have similar interests, hobbies, and pursuits – and online games are one of the most popular. Our game will nurture teamwork towards shared, concrete, peace-related goals. This is how Georgian and Abkhaz youngsters become peacebuilders themselves. Teamwork and joint efforts are the ultimate blueprints for success.”

In Georgia, peer-to-peer contact between Abkhaz and Georgian youth is rare, if non-existent. They live in separate worlds; their communities, until recently, wracked by conflict and infighting.

Lack of information nourishes stereotypes and continues to play into prejudices about the other.

All too often, communities end up knowing precious little about their neighbours. It is precisely this fear of the unknown, as Build Up‘s Helena Puig Laurrari writes in a recent blog post, that gaming has the potential to break through.

“For many Georgian and Abkhaz youngsters, a virtual world is the only place they can meet and communicate. This is where damaging stereotypes can be broken and personal features of each other become more important,” says van Emden Andres.

The new game is being developed within a joint confidence building mechanism commissioned by both the European Union and UNDP in Georgia. 

“Social media and virtual communities are more often used to break the conflict-related stereotypes,” says project manager, Irina Liczek. ”Open communication and interaction are foundations for trust and confidence to be built on.“

The features and prospects of the game, as well as the broader the role of technology in conflict resolution, was discussed during a country-level Social Good Summit Meetup on Monday, 22 September.

This Meetup - one of 151 taking place around the world - brought together peace experts and technology professionals, alongside young people and students already keen on the idea of a new computer game.

“I can’t wait till the new game is released! I have made a lot of friends via online games,” says student, Amiran Toronjadze. “I am confident that soon I will see Abkhaz peers among them.”

September 2014

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