Cedaria: Blackout

A Videogame for Peace

Popular culture is a powerful tool for reaching the masses and tackling deeply-rooted social issues. Our Lebanese team is finalizing our latest adventure on this journey with Cedaria: Blackout – a videogame for peace!

Traditional peacebuilding activities often tend to reach only those already interested in peacebuilding and end up preaching to the choir. To truly make a difference, we want to go beyond this approach and impact marginalized and other hard-to-reach audiences. Over half a billion people play videogames daily worldwide, creating a huge opportunity for our work.

Videogames are almost always synonymous with battles, guns, wars, villains and mayhem. More than half of the games rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board contain violence, out of which 90% are inappropriate for a younger audience. Creating a game that youth want to play for hours and hours – not the type of ‘educational game’ that completely neglects entertainment – while still keeping our peacebuilding vision intact required collaboration with a team of established game developers.

The outcome of those efforts is Cedaria: Blackout, a 3D adventure game in a Middle Eastern steampunk setting. It features crafting, an extensive dialogue system, and multiple dynamic endings that are affected by the player’s choices.

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The game is set on a distant island, recently plunged into darkness and industrial decay. While the causes of the breakdown remain a mystery, the casualties are clear. No one goes unaffected, and once-peaceful clans turn on each other. Cedaria invites players to explore fantastical locations, from steamship harbors and rusty factories to ancient ruins and enchanted forests. They meet a colorful cast of characters, each with their own agendas, conflicts and goals. The way a player interacts with them will set the course for his or her journey through the island.

Do they resort to force and deception to overcome obstacles, or do they seek creative and alternative solutions? Can they mend what is broken? Can they turn enemies into friends and steer them away from the path of aggression? Can they avert civil war?

The players’ decisions, no matter how simple, determine how everything plays out. They may be able to reconcile the different segments of the population and become heroes. But then again… there’s no rule forcing the players to be “good.”

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Studies have shown that video games affect behavioral patterns. Such effects can be negative, especially when games prompt the player to be more aggressive. But they can also be positive, as games have also been shown to increase dexterity, empathy, and cognitive skills. Armed groups and militaries around the world are using violent videogames as a tool to recruit and train fighters. If it works for promoting violence, why can’t it work to promote peace?

Our experience has shown that popular culture is a powerful way of conveying messages of tolerance and acceptance of the “other”. Instead of presenting blunt lessons and black-and-white morals, it allows people to figure out issues for themselves. This is what we want to achieve with Cedaria: Blackout. We want to provide youth in the Middle East with a platform to learn and practice how to mediate conflict, solve community problems collaboratively, and understand the perspectives of the “other.”

We have taken a series of measures to ensure the transfer of virtually-achieved skills to the real world. In addition to creating human characters with which players can identify, we made cooperation an essential feature of the game. Co-op mode enables youth from various backgrounds to play together as a team to reach different outcomes.

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