PeaceMaker: Design Assumptions

Tim Sweeney, our lead game designer and one of the first members of the team wanted to shed some light on our core design assumptions. I am sharing his write-up with you:

“In the course of making PeaceMaker, it was necessary to make certain assumptions and statements about things that are not really known in order to bring the game into being. We admit that these core assumptions are debatable issues, and we encourage exploration of them. However, they are not significantly questioned or challenged within the scope of playing PeaceMaker itself. Much as an artistic work claims a certain license to choose what it says about the world we live in, we claim this license in making this game. We feel it is a positive message we are sending, and should we second-guess these assumptions we risk our message not being heard, or having the wrong message sent entirely.

We stand by these following assumptions and do not consider them biased towards one particular side or the other, but rather biased on the side of peace in general.

Two-State Solution
The end, “winning condition” of the PeaceMaker simulation is the two-state solution. This may sound controversial to some, but is the consensus of a majority of those that desire a peaceful solution, and is the aim of past peace talks, UN resolutions, and the USA-backed “road map.” Even though we end the scope of our game there, however, that does not mean that every problem and every concern has been addressed, or that the violence has completely stopped. We simply must choose a limit to the scope of the simulation. We welcome other views and encourage discussion about the validity of that solution. We believe that regardless of this assumption, a lot of the insights that can come from our experience will be beneficial for reaching any resolution.

You can make a difference!
Sometimes it is said that the conflict is eternal, and can never be resolved. Or that a single minister or president can’t do anything to affect the conflict in any regard. We disagree. The impact of one person’s resolve, especially a powerful figure such as we let our players pretend to be, cannot be dismissed. While our players cannot simply end the conflict with the wave of their hands, they can make a difference and simulate real progress (or regress, if the player fails).

The other side wants peace too
The true motives of the other side are constantly called into question. Some insist that many Palestinians would not be content until the Israeli state ceases to exist. Others claim that many Israelis believe that Gaza and the West Bank rightfully belong to the state of Israel. It is the case that certain individuals may hold these views, and the player will have to deal with them in the course of the game, but we assume these views are not shared by the entire populations. We believe that a majority of people want a sustainable, fair peace.

You lack complete control of your own side
Continuing from the above topic, the player does not represent the entire, monolithic “side.” They do not have direct control of everything. They have to work with limitations, attempting to gain support so that they can make bold moves, and there are also independent simulated actors who are going to cause disruption through their actions no matter what. The player is not in control for everything their “side” does, though they do have to take some responsibility, as they will be blamed even if it wasn’t their decision.

Small concrete steps, not grandiose plans
PeaceMaker is a game about small actions leading to a gradual solution. It’s about observing the range of week-to-week actions and concrete steps possible. Other events will happen at the same time, changing the situation on the ground. It is not a game about hammering out detailed negotiations about the specifics of border lines, tax rates, and timelines. Such frameworks are admirable, but are always going to be imperfect, and be disrupted by action or lack of action. We believe that forward progress is a better thing to demonstrate than a fragile and complicated plan.

“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the possible”
Not only is there a balance in the gameplay, but there is also a balance involved in making the game. We cannot make a perfect, detailed, realistic simulation — it would be completely inaccessible to all but a handful of people. We can also not make a fun, exciting game in the traditional sense of video games — it would trivialize the conflict and be a step backwards. PeaceMaker, we believe, is a fair compromise that moves us in the right direction. This is the same lesson we hope players find through playing our game.”

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