Feature: Antiwar games try to make peace

Feature: Antiwar games try to make peace

by Gale Julius

JUBA, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) — As war-torn South Sudan continues to grapple with violence and ethnic division, a small community of game developers, artists and coders are campaigning to use games to promote peace and combat hatred.

In an attempt to defuse hostility among South Sudanese, 24-year-old Lual Michael Mayen brought together 20 tech enthusiasts last year and formed Junub Games with the aspiration of creating games to promote peace.

Mayen told Xinhua in an interview in Juba that his team has developed a mobile game called Salaam, meaning “Peace” in local Arabic, and a board game called Wahda, or “Unity”, that are attracting local and international users.

“Most people in South Sudan love playing games like chess and dominos, I was looking at a way that with games, we can promote peace because when people gather together, they interact and share peace messages,” Mayen said.

Salaam, a war game that runs on Android devices, is played by blowing up bombs in the air before they fall on houses and running people. A win will be followed by a complimentary message saying “Congratulations for saving lives” before moving on to the next level.

Wahda is a board game played using cards like love, peace, unity and Dr. John Garang (named after the founding leader of South Sudan), to stop the player from being engulfed by war and hatred.

“(The Salaam game) contains good massages of peace and it is something I encourage all the youth to play so that they can share the value of peace,” said Emmanuel Lobojo, a local film maker who frequents playing the Salaam game.

With its rising popular among South Sudanese game lovers, the group is seeking to give out the games in refugee camps in a bid to spread non-violence massages.

Over 2 million South Sudanese have been displaced since the conflict broke out in 2013 in the world’s youngest nation, killing tens of thousands of people and dividing the country’s population along ethnic lines.

“We are planning to distribute these games in the camps for displaced youth in South Sudan and in neighboring countries because right now they are redundant so we are trying to bring them together through playing games,” Mayen said.

“What I can tell the youth of South Sudan is that this country belong to us. So we have to use whatever knowledge that we have to change our country instead of just sitting down and blaming ourselves,” he added.

The Uganda-educated software engineer has just concluded a three-day Game Jam in the capital Juba where he trained more than 20 youths on game development skills in an effort to create educational games to fight ethnic hatred.

“According to our research, the youth are the ones found of spearheading hate speech and ethnic violence, so our team is trying to develop educational board games to combat ethnic violence,” he added.

But he also confessed that lack of computer knowledge among South Sudanese youth, insecurity and poor internet connectivity in most parts of the country are making their campaign difficult.

Meanwhile Riek Maker Ding, a juba-based peace activist, praised the initiative as an important scheme to distract them from engaging in violence. Enditem