Monday, May 21, 2007

Social Impact Game: Diffusing Conflict

My idea for a Social Impact Game stems from my interest in the contemporary issue revolving around Northern Ireland and the consistent conflicts between the Unionist and Nationalist factions. Over 800 years of tensions between the English and Irish have led to a fierce divide in the mindset that pervades today, with religion emerging as the preeminent dividing factor, especially under the reigns of Henry VII and Elizabeth in the 16th century. With the development of the Irish Free State in 1922, the six counties of Northern Ireland remained under the rule of the United Kingdom, and eventually the Protestant (Unionist) majority began to blatantly exploit their power, causing great difficulties for the Catholic (Nationalist) minority. Violence erupted on an unprecedented scale in 1969, continuing on at a very intense level in the early 1970s and eventually declining in frequency but always remaining in the minds of those on either sides even to this day.

The ratification of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 set a plan in motion to establish a peaceful, power-sharing government in which Unionist and Nationalist leaders would work together, the formation of such a plan which has taken years to create. In the same fashion, it has taken an equally long period of time to finally set the plan in motion, requiring events like the IRA disarmament in July of 2005 and certain concessions from each side before the two sides would come together to begin operating as a joint-government in the spring of 2007.

Despite the fact that the government has now been elected and will begin operating independently of Irish and English influences from Dublin and London, respectively, there is still much resentment in the mindset of the people of Northern Ireland that permeates the social landscape today. Every city has areas that are specifically Unionist or Nationalist, with prominent signs that ensure any newcomer is aware what sort of territory they are in. The hatred and resentment for such acts of aggression or retaliation, depending on which side one aligns his or her self with, have created immeasurable amounts of suffering and loathsome feelings for the other that have not withered even to this day.

This anger is what my Social Impact Game will attempt to counteract. In an issue as difficult and tense as this, one must be very careful in creating a game that will appeal to both sides and create a common understanding between the two. The game would explore in an interactive manner the way in which both sides have experienced numerous difficulties and the pressures that lay on each, as the best way to overcome such divisive hatred is to give an accurate depiction of the injustices that each side endured to show the respective rationales. The idea is to explain how such perpetuated hatred emerged in the hope that the knowledge will decrease the resentment for each side as they come to understand that there is more to conflict than an “Us vs. Them” mentality, and that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. While the game will be rather historical in content, it will have a fun, interactive element which will create an entertaining approach to conflict diffusion and hopefully lead to a more peaceful future in Northern Ireland.

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