An email from Colin Rule

Colin Rule is one of those people who don’t say too much because that don’t have to in order to prove to the world who they are and what it is they do. He kindly linked me to his blog today and in the email informing me of it, had this to say about some comments of mine on violence and games:

I disagree with you on the games, though. I think violence in games is pure fantasy for most players, as connected to real life violence as violence in books, film, and TV. Which is as old as literature itself.

Actually Colin, I don’t disagree with you at all. My post here, which I think is what Colin is referring to, and the comments it generated, if anything proved that the jury is still out on the linkages (if any) between simulated violence in PC games and real life violence and conflict.

However, it is a fact that in early 2005, a Chinese gamer killed a fellow gamer over something that only existed in the online world of a game they were both playing at the time. Now that’s an interesting development – the first I know of the first degree murder of an individual over something that didn’t really exist.

As I ask in my paper on the future of ODR, written for the 4th UN ODR Conference held recently in Cairo, Egypt:

What if communal violence from the real world spills over into flaming and hate between and within communities in Second Life, or vice-versa?

The game I refer to here called Second Life is increasingly becoming a playground for experiments on how the real and virtual worlds interact. Business models and entire lives are lived out on Second Life. My interest is in this new generation of ‘games’ or virtual reality and what impact they can / will have on real life.

Colin importantly points to the larger debate that informs our appreciation of these new developments in his post here:

There are websites devoted to inventorying and criticizing violent acts on film, as if each episode was glorifying violence in the abstract. In fact, all violence in movies is simulated, and much of it is presented critically. Even Shakespeare used violence extensively throughout his plays. As Amanda Mabillard explains it, “Elizabethan and Jacobean audiences reveled in shocking drama… some of Shakespeare’s most violent plays were by far his most popular during his lifetime… Hamlet’s father is poisoned with a potion so potent that it immediately causes bubbling scabs on his body; King Duncan is lured to Macbeth’s castle to be slaughtered in his bed, and so on.” But Shakespeare was not out to glorify violence. His plays are far more subtle and nuanced than that literal interpretation might indicate.

I still maintain however that what Second Life and games like it offer in terms of complexity and real / virtual world interplays is far more complex and textured than the traditional study of games such as Doom III and their impact on real life.

As I’ve called for earlier, it would be interesting to take games such as Second Life, or more specifically, their gaming engines, and create new games that are vernacular driven online world which engage grassroots stakeholders, from community IT centres around the world, to participate and virtually enact real world scenarios so as to gain a better understanding of the complexity of conflict transformation.

Such exercises are already on the ascendant – see for instance the Virtual Peer Mediation experiment using Second Life.

My interest is to take these from fringe activities to mainstream theory and practice – to develop sophisticated gaming systems that contribute to future scenario planning exercises, help build local capacities for peacebuilding and strengthen knowledge and awareness of conflict resolution in classrooms of the next generation of peacebuilders.

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