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Why games are a key focus in UNESCO's efforts to promote world peace

Why games are a key focus in UNESCO's efforts to promote world peace

January 25, 2017 | By Alex Wawro

January 25, 2017 | By Alex Wawro
More: Serious

"If you read the literature on conflict resolution, perspective-taking is very important in order to reconcile opposing points of view. It's difficult to have empathy if you can't put yourself into somebody else's perspective. Video games allow you to assume perspectives in an embodied form."

- Paul Darvasi, teacher and author of a UNESCO report on games as peace-building tools, speaking to Polygon.

Game developers are capable of creating works that "promote awareness and, more importantly, encourage action to address some of the most pressing social issues of our time," according to a recently-published report commissioned by UNESCO, an agency of the United Nations dedicated to building peace worldwide. 

The report itself -- compiled by York University's Paul Darvasi -- is free to download and worth reading for devs at all interested in the potential social and cultural impact games can have. Polygon's recent feature on the report is also worth checking out, as it includes comments from both Darvasi and Navid Khonrasi, founder of 1979 Revolution: Black Friday developer Ink Stories.

"I feel that interactive experiences are the strongest experience that we have to engage people with what's taking place in the world. You're in it. You get to control your own narrative," Khonrasi told Polygon. "You can create an understanding that eventually leads to feelings of empathy and understanding. In our time, we're getting our news through Facebook clips, which are condensed but also shallow. The strength of games is that they can have an impact in the long term on people's comprehension and understanding and views of one another."

This isn't the first time UNESCO has highlighted games as potential peace-building tools, of course -- it's rolled out multiple game-related initiatives in the past. 

It's not alone in these efforts, either: just this month some local devs announced South Sudan was taking part in the Global Game Jam for the first time ever, and building peace and prosperity through game design was their goal. Moreover, peace-builders with the U.N.-backed Nairobi Play Project are now using game dev workshops to teach kids how to work together

And of course, many developers -- including Black Onyx creator and Tetris Company founder Henk Rogers -- have been advocating for games as powerful peace-building tools for years.

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