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Serious Play: Cyber Tyrant Toppling Games

Check out the new video game called A Force More Powerful. Described as a cross between Sim City and a political science tutorial, this video game is a "strategic simulation tool" that enables social movements to learn nonviolent strategic planning for implementation in oppressed societies.

Just on the face of it, this sounds very cool to me, something definitely in the "serious play" category. This is also a good example of a certain class of innovation that over gets overlooked in the preoccupation of finding something totally new-new: that is, a novel recombination of old and new tools and ideas, or things previously separated by a discipline or boundary of some sort. Nature does this all the time, and so do most creative people.

"A Force More Powerful" clearly blurs some boundaries: it gives new leverage and scope to powerful worldchanging strategies like Gandhi's ideas of satyagraha through a video game format which convergences entertainment with proven tools like stimulations and role playing. So not only do we get more effective worldchanging but also for twice the fun! A great way to open up new channels and audiences for activism. Bravo. Of course, I have no idea if or precisely how it works in practice -- please let us know if you've played with this game -- but I'm glad the game exists because it represents just another reason why it's getting harder for tyrants to maintain their traditional stranglehold on power, and another case where we see increasing access to tools and processes and know-how previously confined to a precious few corporate and government planners and elite groups. And this is no concidence.

Interestingly enough, the game is sponsored by the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), an intriguing group that lays claim to helping topple tyrants in Serbia, Georgia and most recently Ukraine. ICNC is an independent organization that is careful to distance itself from the US government. According to Prospect magazine, "the latest wave of pro-democracy activists signing up for ICNC's help are from the next land on the administration's hitlist -- Iran." Funny that. Again, there are no coincidences here.

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I've seen the game played at some game development events; if you want some more details from the demo I saw, I'd be glad to go into more detail (sorry, I'm too dense to figure out how to respond to the author of this post directly).

Posted by: Darius on 15 Mar 05

ICNC worries me greatly. There is a possibility that they have been a not-so-covert arm of US policy. I don't like seeing coercion whether it is violent or non-violent.

My understanding is that the US military has been studying ML King and Gandhi's tactics to adopt and adapt to their own purposes. To be expected but I wonder whether there are any non-military practitioners of non-violence and satyagraha who are advancing the art.

Posted by: gmoke on 15 Mar 05

gmoke, what have you seen that leads you to the possibility of ICNC's co-opting by the US?

Posted by: Tarek on 16 Mar 05

Yes, give us some evidence about US government connections. I had my suspicions but just didn't know.

Here might be one lead: during my national security scenario work (crica 2001 but before 9/11), I met a former operative who mentioned he was helping bottom-up transitions using "soft power" approaches. He specifically mentioned Serbia. Perhaps this same person is also involved with the ICNC? I'll do some poking around. Or perhaps these social networks are related via a dotted line but not connected. There are many examples of former members of groups (cults, governments, companies) going to "the other side" and applying what they have learned. So this could be happening as well.

I do know that ICNC is being funded by cofounder Peter Ackerman's fortune.

Posted by: NIcole Boyer on 16 Mar 05

Apparently there is a TV show too:

More links on Ackerman, a leading expert on nonviolent conflict and lawyer, and Managing Director of Crown Capital (which I guess is where he gets his mula from)

Posted by: NIcole Boyer on 16 Mar 05



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