Gaming for Social Change

Mon., Feb. 12, 2018, 6 pm, Lecture Series on

"Humanities in Community"

On second Mondays monthly -- excepting semester and summer breaks -- a Liberal Arts professor/instructor from the UW-Madison or Madison College will explore issues or topics and invite Q&A. See posters in our archive for descriptions of previous lectures.                                           _____________________________________

Topic:  Press Play:  Using Games and Simulations for Social Change

Lecturer: Jim Mathews

Lecture not recorded.

As teacher, researcher and game designer, Jim will...

present an overview of the “serious games” movement -- it’s progress toward leveraging the power of video games to quicken players’...

  • Awareness and empathy
  • Fascination with local history or ecology
  • Skills and activity on behalf of local and global issues.

Jim will unpack the learning science of game-design and share examples of games crafted to motivate exploration of a wide range of topics including history, literature, death and ethics.


Through his work at UW-Madison’s Field Day Lab and Clark Street Community School, Jim designs and researches digital media and learning experiences aimed at connecting youth and adults with local people, places and issues.


Here is a link to a New York Times article on the game "Peacemaker" -- followed by its first three paragraphs, but, following that, do not miss the link to an NPR audio on Virtual Reality.


LAST week, in an effort to solve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, I withdrew settlements in the Gaza Strip. But then a suicide bomber struck in Jerusalem, the P.L.O. leader called my actions “condescending,” and the Knesset demanded a stern response. Desperate to retain control, I launched a missile strike against Hamas militants.

I was playing Peacemaker, a video game in which players assume the role of either the Israeli prime minister or the Palestinian president. Will you pull down the containment wall? Will you beg the United States to pressure your enemy? You make the calls and live with the results the computer generates. Just as in real life, actions that please one side tend to anger the other, making a resolution fiendishly tricky. You can play it over again and again until you get it right, or until the entire region explodes in violence.

“When they hear about Peacemaker, people sometimes go, ‘What? A computer game about the Middle East?’ ” admits Asi Burak, the Israeli-born graduate student who developed it with a team at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “But people get very engaged. They really try very hard to get a solution. Even after one hour or two hours, they’d come to me and say, you know, I know more about the conflict than when I’ve read newspapers for 10 years.”  

Also go to this NPR link for an interview transcript and its compelling 8 minute audio on the potential of developing both negative and positive traits -- like empathy -- through VIRTUAL REALITY


A poster with more detail (2-sides) and live links is attached below for sharing by print or email:


Why Conservation Matters- 2-sides-pdf with links
Description of lecture, large poster with links and optimized for online sharing.
Why Conservation Matters_Poster-LINK.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [1.3 MB]
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