Sometimes PlayTheNews Becomes the News

On two separate occasions our news games were drawn into the event we had represented, when the real-life characters began paying attention to them.  How weird.

First case: a game we published with Read Write Web about Data Portability.  The founder of DP, Chris Saad, who is represented by a role in the game, played it and promised not to spoil the game since he “knows the answers”.

Second case: our recent game about BoingBoing and Violet Blue was posted and hosted by Violet Blue on her blog, open to comments by her audience.

Will we see future feedback loops?  Say Obama looking at our community predictions/opinions for his prospective VP?

Why PeaceMaker costs money (contd)

I recently was invited to write something for the Huffington Post and thought it would be a great venue to continue my thoughts on the subject raised in Why PeaceMaker costs money?

If you found the previous discussion interesting please have a look at this new post. Again it was difficult not to go into the many facets of my thoughts on this subject, especially in a short post, but I brought up some other issues that are interesting to me. As always I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Why PeaceMaker costs money?

I have been meaning to write this for a while now in response to several emails and postings. I am finally going to throw my first round of comments into the ring to respond to the overall idea that we should be giving away the game for free, why we are a for-profit, and finally why we are charging for the game.

To the comments we get that “I won’t purchase a game that should be free”, or along the lines of “how is a game that is meant to reach people charging money”, on a personal level it has always struck me as odd that thing associated with “peace” should only live in the non-profit or free segment of society. Another comment that we were always asked was “what is your business model”. This implies that because the game is about conflict resolution or “peace” that the standard models don’t apply. It is about spending where your values or interests lie, if your interest is in games why not a game that has received reviews from an established game designer such as “is fun, challenging, tense at times, and extremely well presented”? If you’re interested in the issues then we also equate the experience with a documentary. We address a social issue in an interesting way. I could go on and on for experiences that people pay for that are similar at a base level to what we are doing.

We did have a long debate on whether to be for-profit or non-profit. The issues that drove our decision can be summed up fairly simply with the reality that it was easier and faster to find funding for the profit venture. There is a growing trend for social entrepreneurs, self sustaining models with positive missions, ie positive changes through for-profit ventures ( even this years Nobel Peace Prize Winner Mouhammad Yunus ). We also chose to remain unaffiliated through investment or sponsors. We fought for a long time to maintain the mission of our company and were very sensitive to bias concerns. We continuously saw the opportunity that if we are financially successful we could influence the gaming industry as a whole to understand that this type of mature content is not only in demand but a financial opportunity. To lead by example and to help populate the space with more titles like ours. We still work with and maintain great relationships with several foundations and non-profits for providing the game in places where funding is a problem and for creating wider awareness and support for communities and educators to engage people through the game experience.

We feel we chose a price point that is fairly low for what we have invested in the project, and hopefully not a barrier for too many people. You could also insert a whole argument here on perceived value of something you purchase versus something that is free ( I am not going to extrapolate on that argument except to say this drove some of our decision on the final price ). The main objective is to earn enough money to be able to update this title, expand its community interaction, and to address other topics we have in the que. The primary drive has never been for personal financial gain.

I could and will continue to expand on this, as this is only some of the thinking and issues we have addressed. I attempted to keep this short but was unable to get the basics out without going on a little bit of a soapbox rant.

PeaceMaker is Available!

Hi everyone,

The moment we’ve all been waiting for has arrived. After more than 2 years of production, the PeaceMaker game is available for online download. We are eagerly anticipating your feedback and comments, and we would like to thank all of you for the continuous interest, encouragement and mainly – patience.

Some more good news- PeaceMaker advanced to Finalist in Ashoka’s Changemakers competition (11 out of 158 peace initiatives from all over the world). The final stage is open for public voting – we would love to get your support.


The PeaceMaker team

Preparation for Launch

As our launch approaches we are making some changes to improve our systems. One of the changes will be to relocate our blog. We are very interested in what you have to say and do not want to risk losing any registrations or comments in the transition. Due to this we will be locking the blog for registration and comments until we are sure the transfer is completed. If you would like to post something please check back in the very near future (a day or two).

Back from Sundance (or: "informative" vs. "educational")

We just came back from the Sundance Film Festival after sitting on a panel on independent video games. The response of the audience to the idea of positive/independent/serious games was excellent and we got a lot of traffic on our websites (10x than the usual). At the same time, it seems to me that we’re only at the beginning of the struggle with perception and conventions.

For one thing, I can’t understand why a meaningful game like “PeaceMaker” is automatically labeled as an “educational simulation”. Yes, it may be a great tool in the classroom, but why not beyond that? PeaceMaker should be treated as a non-fiction book, a graphic novel (eg “Maus”) or a social impact documentary (eg “An Inconvenient Truth”). These are consumed by the mainstream. Yes, they are informative and serious but thanks to the maturity of the medium they became part of our leisure time. People watch TV news and learn about the world. No one calls this an “educational experience”. I really hope that video games will soon achieve the same level of maturity and acceptance so we can really break the boundaries of “fun and shallow”.

No Magic Plans

Happy New Year! A personal comment for 2007- from time to time we receive emails from people who are confident they have the “perfect plan to solve the Middle-East conflict” and they strongly believe that their solution should be integrated into our video game. With much appreciation to their passion and determination, to me this notion stands in contrast to what we’re trying to convey. I believe more in a bottom-up and systemic change, promoting empathy and tolerance on the individual level over time. In addition, I would argue that the end solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is clear and known, and that there is no magic solution that someone never thought of. Can an “out of the box” creative plan erase decades of personal loss, hatred and mistrust?

In PeaceMaker, one takes a leadership role, and the message is: your power is limited and your authority is challenged. Clicking on the PeaceMaker executable file won’t solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The real change may come by promoting empathy and by accepting the validity of the other side’s perspective. And that takes a lot of time and patience, no shortcuts allowed.