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Gaming gets serious with 'Global Conflicts: Palestine'

Forget Grand Theft Auto, the new king of controversy is a game set in the Palestine territories? Crave says yes!

Crave has just discovered Global Conflicts: Palestine -- a forthcoming game based on the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territories. In it you play a journalist who arrives in Israel with the task of navigating between Palestinian and Israeli sources to get a story.

We initially suspected it to be a cheap and somewhat distasteful attempt to court controversy and shore up sales. After all, the games industry has a knack for developing violent, misogynistic titles that serve little purpose other than to destroy kids' minds. The Grand Theft Auto series puts you in the shoes of a carjacking hoodlum, Mortal Kombat lets you decapitate your friends for no good reason and Dead or Alive is little more than a tech demo for showcasing realistic breast jigglage.

On the surface, Global Conflicts: Palestine is easy to condemn -- as would any game be that focuses on one of our planet's most emotive subjects -- but take a minute to consider the ramifications of such a title. According to its makers, you as a journalist can "take a pro-Palestinian angle, a balanced angle or a pro-Israeli angle". Players walk through a city resembling Jerusalem talking to various Palestinians and Israeli sources to get your article. The aim is to stay objective and maintain trust on both sides as the conflict escalates, but the difficulty is in staying objective when the people in your story become much more than just sources.

If done correctly, we think it's an excellent idea. There are countless children, young adults and even full grown men and women that have little understanding or interest in what happens outside the confines of their living room. The plight of two opposing sides is all too often reduced to a few emotive headlines and pointless soundbites on the 10 o'clock News, so it's refreshing to see that gamers can now see the world through the opposing eyes of warring nations, terrorist groups and so-called innocent civilians, fox hunters and tree huggers -- the possibilities are endless.

Earlier this year MTV's Web-based Darfur is Dying helped highlight the genocide in the Darfur region of western Sudan. Within the first month of its launch 700,000 users bore witness to how civilians still face the prospect of mass killings, torture, rape and the destruction of their villages. Later, tens of thousands of players sent emails to politicians urging them to take action.

We can understand why parents, teachers and ambulance-chasing lawyers like Jack Thompson's claim that gaming erodes the morals of an entire generation. But even apparently destructive titles like Canis Canem Edit (formerly known as Bully) could be critical for the entertainment and education of millions. 

We haven't yet played Global Conflicts: Palestine, but we wouldn't be surprised if we learned more from it than our teachers and parents have taught us in decades.

According to games designer Chris Crawford, "the fundamental motivation for all game playing is to learn". We wouldn't go that far (Crave loves running over grannies in stolen vehicles as much as the next blog), but we're gagging for the prospect of learning about the real world through our favourite virtual medium.

Global Conflicts: Palestine is released in early 2007. -RR