Regime Change Game: A Force More Powerful

screenshot from -A force more powerful

Ethan Zuckerman writes about Ivan Marovic an important figure in the Otpor (Serbo-Croatian for resistance) Serbian democracy movement is working on a video game to help people learn to organize non-violent democracy movements.

Zuckerman writes:

The movement demonstrated their power in opposing Milosevic in the 2000 elections – by the time the election took place, it was quite obvious that Milosevic would lose to opposition leader Zoran Dindic. The real question was whether or not Milosevic would step down. (And, of course, he didn’t.) So the movement took the next step, and organized to actually remove Milosevic from power.

And hundreds of thousands of activists eventually organized a nonviolent takeover of Parliament, forcing Milosevic out of power and eventually into trial at The Hague.

In some ways, this was just the beginning for Otpor – Kumara, a movement in Georgia that took down Shevrednadze, used the same symbolism and the same tactics as Otpor. And the Orange Revolution in Ukraine used many of the same tactics, and the movements were in close contact.

Ivan is less interested in writing another book about non-violent organizing or making another video – instead, he’s helping build a game, called A Force More Powerful. It’s a simulation game developed with Breakaway Games. It looks a little like Sim City or Civilization, but is focused on teaching organizers the tactics of non-violent resistance.

The game is in beta testing now and is planned for launch in January, and it looks really, really fun. As a player, you control characters, groups and movements – you build them into coalitions, send them out to carry out tactics and see the results from the government. Ivan walks us through a graffiti campaign, some street rallies and a benefit rock concert that finally brings down the game government.

More exciting, the game is highly editable…

The idea behind this game is exciting. It will be interesting to see the game once it is finally released.

The game is part of the A force more powerful project. The project promotes the “use of non-violent conflict to achieve human rights and democracy”. It has produced documentaries, a book, and has a website with links to further resources.

Apparently the game is being adapted from classroom roleplaying excercises.

On the project’s website the Game Development Team describes the game:

AFMP is the first and only game to teach the methods of influencing or changing the political environment using nonviolent methods. Destined for use by activists and leaders of nonviolent resistance and opposition movements, the game will also educate the media and general public on the potential of nonviolent action; and serve as a simulation tool for academic studies of nonviolent resistance. … AFMP is primarily a game of strategy, emphasizing abstract ideas and planning rather than reflexes, coordination, or quick thinking. Realism will not depend on resource-hungry real-time animation, but on the accuracy of underlying behavior models. Game play involves the player’s side (the movement) and an opponent (the regime). The regime will be created by the designer of each scenario, and controlled by the game’s artificial intelligence (AI).

In AFMP , the player takes charge of the movement’s material and human resources, assesses the strengths and vulnerabilities of the adversary as well as those of the movement, then chooses goals, strategies, and tactics. Scenarios involve individual characters, groups, and alliances, which interact with and against each other, depending on the player’s decisions, the programmed scenario, and the actions of the regime.

Game play is governed by detailed interactive models – of strategic and political factors, ethnicity, religion, literacy, material well-being, media and communications, resource availability, economic factors, the role of external assistance, and many other variables. Tactics include such basics as training, fund-raising, and organizing, as well as leafletting, protests, strikes, mass action, civil disobedience and noncooperation. Many game-play decisions involve selecting which characters and groups should take part in the strategy, and considering the benefits of such actions relative to their costs.

Scenarios are fictional, but based on recent historical precedents (nonviolent successes in Russia , Chile , Poland , the Philippines , and others) which designers are using to test and validate the models. Groups are the game’s basic political units, representing the interests and agendas common to every complex struggle. Recruiting characters and building alliances is a principal game activity, involving labor, business, government, agricultural, academic and professional, media, religious, and military categories.

The game has also been mentioned on WorldChanging,in Fortune and on Wired News

Water Cooler Games, a site which explores the emerging field of games that want to make a point, share knowledge, change opinions, criticizes some of the games choices in their article A Force More Complicated.

4 thoughts on “Regime Change Game: A Force More Powerful”

  1. The Oct 31 Washingtom Post has a article on ‘Serious Games’ conference: Game Industry Finds Serious Outlet for Creative Energies: N.Va. Conference Showcases Growing Sector Devoted to Simulations for Nonprofit Clients

    Nevertheless, serious-game developers see a lot of room for growth in their marketplace. Breakaway will make more then $10 million in revenue this year from its serious side — about 75 percent of the company’s business — compared with $5 million last year, according to founder and chief executive Doug Whatley.

    “It’s pretty much been consistently doubling for the past four years for us,” added Whatley, who said his company has about 110 employees and has been profitable for several years.

    “Incident Commander” producer Parsons told a story about one of the beta testers for Incident Commander being sent to Louisiana to help deal with the Hurricane Katrina aftermath after spending an entire week playing the game.

    “He learned things that helped him set up an 800-bed hospital for refugees in Baton Rouge,” Parsons said. “If through that process, people were made more comfortable, maybe lives were saved, then that justifies any amount of time and effort we’ve spent on doing this.”

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