UN competition to celebrate cross-cultural understanding in videogames

Image of a saffron-robed monk holding an umbrella and an iPhone, with Tim Cook of Apple quote: “Apps that you create can fundamentally change the world”

The power of video games to help us construct ideas about international relations and foreign cultures is being recognized by the UN in a competition for game designers, which reaches its application deadline tomorrow.

Video games have a bad record for negative depictions of non-hegemonic cultures. I feel like every other action or RPG game instructs me to plunder the ruins of a former colony and use the treasure to kill menacing foreigners. But some games can have a real impact on our ideas about how the relationships between cultures formed historically. The Civilization series has taught me a lot about the kind of forces that can motivate and sustain colonialism, while little-known simulation game Peacemaker was built by political scientists to educate players about the challenges preventing a resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations is hosting an international app and game design competition on the theme of cross-cultural understanding. If you’re making a game that fits the bill, you have one day left to apply.

According to a press release, the competition “encourages developers to approach the dialogue from many angles or issues, such as gender equality, religious pluralism, and media bias toward other nations or people.” 

“The project, Create UNAOC (United Nations Alliance of Civilizations), is an international competition judged by a diverse group of academics, developers and writers. The developers can be amateurs or experts and do not have to have already developed the app; they just need to submit a video, slideshow, or prototype of their work by November 30th. Five finalists, as picked by the jury, will be awarded $5,000 to finish the creation of their game or app to present at the Annual UNAOC forum in Vienna. Here are the rules of entry and details about the awards.”

About Zoya

Zoya is a freelance writer and historian. Their particular interest is in video games: design, history, and how virtual worlds are inseparable from real-world social and economic networks. Zoya has written a book about the Dreamcast, is Editor of Memory Insufficient games history e-zine, and Deputy Editor at Gamesbrief.
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3 Responses to UN competition to celebrate cross-cultural understanding in videogames

  1. Michael Suen says:

    Thanks to Zoya and The Border House for covering this! My organization (Learning Games Network) has been working with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations to help manage this project. While it’s been done many times for work in video and other antiquated arts (ha!), it’s the UNAOC’s first time organizing a game-related competition of this scope, so we’re still learning lots about how to connect organizations and stakeholders with interested developers and gamers.

    As a clarification: don’t be deterred by the deadline! Tomorrow, all we’re looking for is a VIDEO or a PRESENTATION of a working app prototype for a February deadline. Hoping readers of The Border House can submit their projects at http://www.createunaoc.org!


  2. Ike says:

    This is really cool! If I had known about this sooner, I would have participated.
    Looking forward to seeing what comes out of it!

  3. Ike and other readers,

    The deadline has been extended to December 9th, so you can still submit. Just check out the submission rules the Create UNAOC website !

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