Games for Peace leverages online video games as a platform for the promotion of tolerance and the reduction of prejudice and stereotypes between children of a different background. Our “Play to Talk” School program is aimed at reaching those objectives through engaging school children in playing together and building a shared online project.

The Play2Talk program comprises of six “virtual” 90-minute sessions in which the participants play a video game together from their schools’ computer rooms, over an internet connection, and two face-to-face encounters.
In the virtual sessions, which comprise the core of the program, the two classes, each with its own school computer room, log in simultaneously to a shared game world. After learning the game controls in the first session, the players are divided into two teams (“Red Team” and “Blue Team”), each team is a mixture (50:50) of Arabs and Jews. The teams face a series of challenges in the game which are built so that they require an increasing level of communication and cooperation between the players in each team in order to win points. Because the teams are split among the children in each of the schools, this requires them to communicate in the game’s chat system and on social media platforms like Facebook. Communicating thru the chat was effective as the chat system automatically translates messages into Arabic, Hebrew or English. social media, on the other hand, did not work as we thought it will because most schools block access to social media on their computers.
To ensure that the potential for aggressive or violent behavior is reduced, certain precautions have been built into the game. We had only a few cases where kids tried to engage in counterproductive ways – and in those cases, our built in precautions proved to be very effective. Players were “frozen” in the game at any attempt of disrupting the peaceful nature of the game environment and were brought back to the game after a short intervention by their teachers. This technology allowed the teacher the time to have a constructive conversation with students when it was needed, as well as sending the rest of the participants a clear message about the “do’s and don’ts” of our game world
After the two groups (the Red team and the Blue team) established communication and cooperation through the gaming session they were required to choose, plan and execute an online project. Building the project required a great deal of communication between the children in each group and we were pleasantly surprised with the level of cooperation and communication demonstrated by the participants.

An example of an online building project:

 

 

 

 

The two face to face encounters revolved around deepening and expanding the ties formed during the online encounters and transform them to deeper levels of dialogue between the groups. The first encounter was focused on getting to know one another more personally and the second was aimed at better understanding each other’s culture. The second encounter also included a presentation of the project Built by the two groups (the Red team and the Blue team) – this made the children very proud of their work. As one of the students said: “we built a great castle under difficult conditions, we had to find the materials to build with and understand how to use them, and we did it all hand in hand”

Feedback from the teachers was that this part was very beneficial both in terms of fostering the experience of cooperation and in terms of fostering 21t century skills