Idol Chatter

It’s been blamed for sparking aggression and contributing to American kids’ obesity, but now the beleagured videogame is being given a higher purpose: Toppling dictatorships and spreading human rights through nonviolent struggle. No, “Doom” has not suddenly gone soft. This game is called “A Force More Powerful,” and you will not find it at your neighborhood arcade. AFMP is intended to help those on the frontlines of nonviolent political and social movements to hone their skills at planning strategy and pulling off effective actions that further their cause.

I got a glimpse of the game at a demonstration for representatives of the press and NGOs. Among those showing it off was Ivan Marovic, a leader of the Serbian resistance that toppled Slobodan Milosavic. These days he’s working with the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, which produced the game.

Though AFMP seemed amazingly complicated, its worth at simulating real-life scenarios was obvious. The game offers several scenarios to choose from–such as “Corruption Is Stealing,” “Bringing Down a Dictator,” and “Eternal Vigilance” (preventing a democracy from sliding into dictatorship). Each takes place in a fictional country for which you are given all sorts of information, such as economic indicators, unemployment rates, and political realities. And if you’ve got a lot of data–and time and patience–you can set up your own scenario that more exactly reflects your own situation.

You, the player, control people (only “the good guys,” no choosing to be a villain here), groups, and an alliance of groups that makes up your movement. The game offers more than 65 actions you can take, from raising money and publishing a website to mass protests and civil disobedience. For each person and group you control, the game tells you at every point what their core competencies are, how high their enthusiasm for your cause is, and how high their fear level is. You can see maps of the country showing where your support is the highest and of each major city showing the street grid and major buildings.

Tempted to go directly for the jugular and halt traffic throughout the capital city today? Not so fast. If people’s fear level is too high, or their enthusiasm too low, no one will show up. Better to take actions to ease their fears or renew their commitment to the cause. Even if the masses do turn out, better hope they’re well trained: You can’t resort to violence, but the regime sure can. But if the plan does backfire, you can always send the organizer abroad to avoid arrest and publicize your cause there.

The demonstration I saw–like this description–only began to display all that AFMP had to offer. AFMP set up an online community area for players to share notes and learn from each other, and there are future improvements to the game planned. So if you know anyone looking to learn how to topple a dictator–or maybe you’re looking to learn how to topple a dictator–check out “A Force More Powerful” to hone your skills.

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