by and

Filed under: Development 2.0 Peace and security Social innovation

A joytick linked to a colorful stylised tree made of miscellaneous current objects.

Whether it’s pure entertainment, competition, or rewards, people are spending more and more hours playing games.

As one of the fastest growing industries in 2013, it isn’t surprising to see many sectors looking at how to leverage this growing mass of gamers for good be it for disaster response, engagement of youth with mental health disabilities, or farming and economic development.

In Cyprus and Kosovo, we want to know whether gaming could help bring together people who have traditionally been on opposing sides of a conflict.

Can gaming incentivize reconciliation, peacebuilding and dialogue?

Have you ever asked yourself why we like playing games, be it sports, board, card or video games? What characterizes a game and what makes it entertaining? Is it the challenge, the competition, the rewards or maybe the interaction with other people?

Depending on what motivates you, it’s most probably a combination of all the above.

In the past months, you may have come across the term “gamification,” a concept that uses game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts. It builds on the immense success of the gaming industry, the current social media hype and human psychology, and applies game elements to social contexts.

More than half a billion people worldwide play computer or video games for at least an hour per day. The social good sector is keen to harness this energy, and this is exactly where UNDP comes in.

UNDP in Cyprus and Kosovo are joining forces to figure out exactly what it is that attracts so many of us to one of the fastest growing industries in 2013 and to use the potential of gamification to support reconciliation, dialogue and peacebuilding.

This is a very powerful proposition and we’ve already played (no pun intended) with this concept- for example getting eight to 15 year-olds to explore the walled city of Nicosia on both sides of the divide, and gamifying learning of the Greek and Turkish languages through highlighting the most common words.

So what do we plan to do next?

Next on the gamification to do list, we’ve invited a small group of civil society organizations, game developers, and UNDP’ers to design (in 48 hours) a prototype for an open source peace related game which is interactive, goal oriented and provides understandable rewards to people from minority and majority communities.

One other big challenge we will face is how to get not only the “geeks” to play our game, but also the so called “cool” people. Although geeks can also be pretty cool.

The boot camp is probably taking place at the beginning of October in Cyprus. We tried to organize the event earlier, but it’s not so simple to get our partners from Stanford, Cyprus and Kosovo all together in one room.

At the end of the 48 hours we are planning to have something to share that can attract other partners and resources through crowdsourcing.

Not only are we super excited to see what game comes out of the boot camp, but we are also curious to explore the links between gamification and persuasive technology.

Traditionally, UNDP and other development agents have spent thousands of dollars on awareness raising campaigns based on the theory of change: raising awareness leads to change in attitudes, which leads to change in behaviour. This model is expensive, takes time and is difficult to measure.

What our partners at Stanford (Peace Innovation Lab and Persuasive Technology Lab) are telling us is that we now have a new set of tools that can not only help to change to behaviour, but can also help to quickly measure it.

If this works out in Cyprus and Kosovo, UNDP will not only become famous :), but could also help to pioneer groundbreaking solutions in addressing some long standing difficulties which are affecting millions of lives around the world.

What do you think? Can gaming help to nurture peaceful co existence?