Play2talk School Program
Play2talk uses video games (in this case, the popular game Minecraft) to promote dialogue and confront prejudices that currently exist between Arab and Jewish schoolchildren in Israel. Despite being neighbors, these children are – all too often – exposed to atmospheres of negative stereotypes that, unfortunately, are exacerbated by the two communities’ separate education systems.
The rationale behind the program is that giving young people the opportunity of having an “indirect” encounter through play in a virtual, multi-player game world can pave the way for a positive and meaningful “face-to-face” encounter. The virtual world acts as a springboard for a subsequent gathering, at which the kids will get together and actually meet the real people behind the virtual characters. Having had adventures and co-operated together in the virtual world will, we believe, make breaking the ice that much easier at the real-life meeting, and encourage them to open up to each other.
The program comprises of six “virtual” meetings, in which two classes, each from its own school computer room, logs in simultaneously to a shared game world. The players are divided into mixed teams and encouraged to work together in order to overcome all kinds of challenges in the game. In addition, a number of after-school activities are organized in this virtual world, and the children are all encouraged to take part.
The game has been customized in order to encourage cooperation between players from different backgrounds and certain precautions have been built in, to ensure that the potential for aggressive or violent behavior is substantially reduced. The chat system automatically translates messages into Arabic, Hebrew and English and the virtual world will be monitored constantly, to ensure a safe gaming environment is maintained.
In 2014/2015 The program is planned to run in 14 schools throughout Israel.