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How I Lost The Peace, Possibly Under The Couch: A “Peacemaker” Review

An interesting game was released today to the public.

The goal of the player as the leader is to establish a stable resolution to the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict and win the Nobel Prize before his or her term in office ends. The difficulty level can range from calm to violent.

Any resemblance to Hidden Agenda, up to now the penultimate simulation of politics, is no doubt very non-coincidental. The player picks a side (Israeli or Palestinian) and lists their views on the ongoing crisis. The game is designed to teach people some of the issues facing each side, mostly involving bullets flying into things. So how well did it do?

My first playthrough was as the Israeli Prime Minister.

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I quickly discovered that the game adequately simulated Israeli politics, insofar as my position was untenable and I couldn’t actually accomplish anything. I was responsible for keeping a high popularity among both the Israeli and Palestinian public, which was about as likely as it sounded.

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For every measure trying to ease pressure on the Palestinians, the Israelis cried that I was appeasing terrorism. Any measures against terror attacks were met with global condemnation and Palestinian hatred.

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So, what about doing something about the settlements? What do my advisors have to say about this?

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Yeah, big help there, guys. Thanks.

So, I tried to remove some settlements in the West Bank, only to have the army revolt and the settlers take potshots of their own at the Palestinians.

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Frustrated, I built a really big wall. My gesture of peace (building it along the 1967 borders) was signally unappreciated and the settlers were unamused that I was leaving them outside of it. Terror attacks continued. I ordered retaliatory airstrikes, being somewhat irked at the total lack of cooperation I was seeing from, well, everyone.

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Yeah, that didn’t go well at all. In other words, a good Israeli politics simulator.

A run through as the Palestinians went a bit better. The situation for the Palestinian side is different (and not entirely historically accurate) – you are a technocratic administration caught between both Fatah AND Hamas. Oh, and Israel still occupies everything. Given that, the only thing I saw likely to do – promise to spend lots of money.

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And how would I do this? The time honored tradition – spend OTHER PEOPLE’S money.

 

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Unlike the Israelis, I actually had to find money for all my wacky projects. I managed to fund an economic renaissance mainly through keeping first the EU, then the US very happy and sending lots of money, some of which didn’t make it into Swiss bank accounts.

 

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Meanwhile, Fatah and Hamas merrily shot up most of Israel and Israel responded by occupying Palestine TO DEATH. Part of the Palestinian government’s dillemma is keeping two groups of warring maniacs quiet. With Fatah it’s somewhat easy since one of the options is helpfully “Bribe”. Hamas is made of sterner stuff, and really your only option is to build up a strong police force that can keep order in the streets. Once the militants were cowed, Israel started actually backing off and making concessions.

 

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I never actually “Offered Thanks”. I can only assume that the Palestinian leader would have been immediately strung up or something.

 

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The demanding of Israeli withdrawals combined with my continued Welfare Payments Via Looking Really Sad Eyed At The UN managed to work Palestine up the road to statehood.

 

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No thanks to these guys, of course.

After a while, here was the situation in detail:

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Note my two popularities being tracked – in Palestine you don’t worry about Israeli opinion, merely the world at large, which can be met through not advocating terror and making nice speeches. Israel hates me. Oh well. Both Fatah and Hamas hate me. Oh well. The UN loves me. Priorities: IN ORDER.

After eventually gaining control of the streets, by giving Fatah lots of money and police sweeps against Hamas leaders, we finally got to this point:

 

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So clearly, I am better at dealing with wild-eyed jihadis than cranky ward leaders from Haifa. I’m not really sure what that means.

So how much of a GAME is this? Not much. It’s clearly an educational tool, much like Hidden Agenda was. Some of the problems facing both leaders would be illustrative to those not familiar with the Middle East situation (which is pretty much everyone not listening to NPR on an hourly basis). And it helpfully comes in English, Hebrew, and Arabic, so you can give a copy to your favorite side and watch them become frustrated that there’s no “Invade Other Side TOTALLY TO DEATH” option. (Well, as the Israelis you can do missile strikes. That’s how I got the “YOU LOSE” screen.)

What Peacemaker does do well is demonstrate how games can be used for something besides gang-banging simulators. I briefly toyed with designing a similar game about the US occupation of Iraq, but first wrote a book instead, then got a new job and promptly lost any pretense of free time. But there’s still lots of room for “serious games” about geopolitics – not only in the Mideast/Iraq, but perhaps even things like the situation in Latin America (will it lean towards Western capitalism or Venezuelan caudillo socialism?) or even Poppinfresh’s favorite future history, how China will eat the world.

Or we can keep making games about hit points and barely dressed young women. I bet a game with both hit points AND barely dressed young women would be awesome.