Translator: Galia Cukierman
Reviewer: Cristina Bufi-Pöcksteiner
An Arab and a Jew walk
into an Escape Room.
Yeah, it sounds like a joke.
What do they feel?
But, what do they have
actually in common?
Quite a lot.
They won’t be able
to escape from imprisonment
unless they interact, cooperate
and figure together a way out.
This is exactly what we do.
We bring people
living in a conflict zone together,
through an online gameplay,
putting aside fear,
negative stereotypes and mistrust,
and communicating, collaborating,
and even becoming friends.
are not exclusive to our region.
Conflicts are everywhere.
Conflicts are awful.
They affect the quality of life
in every society and city involved.
Living in a conflict zone
and being a father,
I have been restless, concerned
and worried for many years.
Some of you share
the same concerns, worries,
and maybe attempts
to figure out ways
to bring some good to our future.
Many have tried different programs,
yet many have failed.
You’ve probably experienced,
some Arab-Jewish dialogue programs
conducted at schools.
Honestly, none of them really work,
make a change,
or create true friendships.
I felt we don’t have
a privilege to sit aside,
none of us has.
And we cannot wait for politicians
to bring any good to our region.
We cannot wait and we should not wait.
Being a father,
I learn a lot –
from my kids, my nephews, my family.
A while ago, I had
an amazing observation.
I’ve noticed my kid,
my son and my nephews,
having a loud phone conversation
while playing on their iPads.
I’ve realized that they were
aligning moves with relatives abroad
while playing an online
video game with them.
This made me wonder.
Young people are passionate
about screens and video games.
They play, they interact, they enjoy –
sometimes they fight,
but unlike most adults,
they recover, forgive
and go back to play very fast.
And they are not fixed yet
with negative stereotypes
If online video games
can bring people together,
what if we utilize them
to get people to play,
interact and become friends,
even in conflict zones?
Young gamers are damn too good.
They are great problem solvers.
They strive to become
the best version of themselves,
seeking a heroic win,
to somehow and some extent
save the world while playing.
If young gamers are damn too good
in solving problems in a virtual world,
are they capable of solving
real problems in the real life?
This led me to meet Uri and Dudi,
who share the same thoughts and desires
to utilize the language
young people love, want and deserve:
online video games!
Together, we founded
Games For Peace.
Now, the idea of utilizing
online video games
to address some of the urgent issues
wasn’t really new.
In fact, many have tried
to pursue this idea
by developing some designated games
aiming at dialogue, conflict resolution
and peace promotion.
Maybe you’ve heard of such games.
These games could be great
as an experiment,
but none of them is actually
famous, scalable, or even popular.
Instead of developing
we are exploiting the great appeal
of mass popular online video games.
Minecraft is a great environment,
a game where communication,
collaboration and creativity are prized.
It’s popular, and young people
are addicted to it.
Did you know that over 40 million gamers
play Minecraft every month?
Minecraft has today
over 100 million users around the world.
If they all go live to play together,
that would make them
one of the largest countries in the world.
Together with our developers,
we took Minecraft
and changed its settings
to meet our needs.
We created a new look and feel,
a new gameplay,
and gave players more features
without imposing any agenda.
Remember the Escape Room?
This is how our gameplay begins.
Our gameplay requires players
to talk, to collaborate,
to align moves, to become allies.
Can you imagine young people
from all across the Middle East
coming to play Minecraft together?
We did it!
It was very exciting
to see young gamers
from Israel, Palestine, Jordan,
Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Iran –
yes, Iran –
coming to play Minecraft together.
Teenagers came to play,
came to do, what they like most,
to play games they love.
And they came back to play
again and again,
and inspired more gamers to join.
For them, it’s Minecraft.
For us, it’s a radical new way
of bridging the gaps
between different sectors
in a conflict zone.
Now, you’re probably wondering,
if each one comes
from a different country,
how did they manage to communicate?
Well, technology is not an issue.
We’ve managed to embed
an instant translation chat engine
into our game,
so everyone enjoys playing
without any lingual barriers.
Amazingly, social media was great
in spreading our message.
Our program was embraced
by young gamers in Georgia and Abkhazia.
It was also conducted
between Spanish and Basque gamers
at the Basque Museum.
Look at them.
Isn’t it great to enjoy a game you love
and, at the same time, break down
historical walls of hate and mistrust,
giving peace a real chance?
Today, our program
is running at schools in Israel,
bringing young Arabs and Jews
to play Minecraft together,
and to get to know each other better.
They play online,
and, after several sessions,
they meet offline, face to face,
and they enjoy it a lot.
The program is so appealing
the teachers are asking us to participate
and have their own gameplay.
We’re speaking of a real measurable change
in real time and in the real world.
We see more positive
thoughts of the others,
an increase in the readiness
to engage with the others.
The potential for good is incredible.
So, if you want
a more comfortable present
and a better future –
I bet you all want a better future –
we need to start investing
in young people,
learn from them, listen to them,
interact with them.
Young generations can teach us – us –
how to break down barriers,
how to accept the others around,
how to build peace.
What will happen
if we trap together
an American, a North Korean,
an Afghani and a Russian,
all in one Escape Room?
Can online games make a difference?
Let’s see! Let’s play!