MidEast Video Game

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Academics frequently take we unlettered folk to task for trivializing serious issues. It turns out that they can take us to school on how to do just that. “Sixty-eight participants played PeaceMaker, a video game in which people play the role of the Palestinian president or the Israeli prime minister and respond to various scenarios through diplomatic, economic, and military decision-making,” Saleem Alhabash and Kevin Wise wrote in an article which appeared in the International Journal of Communications this year. “Results showed that participants, before playing PeaceMaker, expressed higher favorability toward Israelis than Palestinians.”

“Participants who played the role of Palestinian president reported positive changes in explicit attitudes toward Palestinians and negative changes toward Israelis, while those who played the role of Israeli prime minister reported no meaningful attitude changes toward either national group after playing the game. Implicit attitudes were more positive toward Palestinians at the baseline, yet did not change significantly as a function of the treatment for both national groups.”

Alhabash, who has a Ph.D. in journalism from the University of Missouri,  toils at Michigan State University. Wise hangs his hat at the University of Missouri. “While these terms are often used interchangeably throughout the literature, we will refer to them here as persuasive games, based on the assumption that their goal is to facilitate change in attitudes and/or behaviors,” they wrote.

They go on to indicate the type of attitude adjustment they are seeking. “Survey results from the United States, as well as European countries, showed differences in sympathies, perceptions, and attitudes toward the conflict and its two sides,” they write. “American public opinion is generally more favorable toward Israelis than Palestinians (ADL, 2004; Bard, 1994; Krosnick & Telhami, 1995; Mayer, 2004; Suleiman, 1984).”

“On the other hand, a survey conducted in 10 European countries revealed that respondents held negative opinions of actions perpetuated by both sides, such as suicide bombings carried out by Palestinians targeting Israeli civilians, and Israel’s construction of the separation wall (ADL, 2004).” The equation of suicide bombings and wall building might not be the sort of moral pinnacle most Americans aspire to.

Nevertheless, students taking the survey could get credit for it, although arguably they were selected from a cadre which does not place a premium on the attainment of the type of historical background that would appear to be essential for understanding MidEast conflicts. “Participants (N=68; 74% female; mean age=20) were recruited from an introductory undergraduate advertising course at a large Midwestern university, and received course credit in exchange for their participation,” the authors explain.

Kristi Jaroma contributed to the research for this report.

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail mal.kline@academia.org.