Designing for peace: 6 inspiring ideas and thoughts

There is too much hate in the world, particularly towards people from different countries, different nations, different religions – just “different”. This made me think, due to recent events – Acid Attacks in London, Far Right in America and so many incidents (way worse than my experience) related to racism and xenophobia, what can we do to bring peace and respect back to humanity?

I know it sounds very miss universe talk (world peace cliche like Miss Congeniality movie), but what are we doing to bring peace after all? What are we doing to slow down this wave of hate? What are we doing to bring respect to each other? I’m not specialist in world-peace or social sciences or anthropology, but I do know design. So what can we do as designers to decrease this horrible scenario of hate and change it?

1- Designing games for peace

While looking for references in Design and Peace, I’ve found the Peace Innovation Lab from Stanford University. This is their video below. All they are talking about is behaviour change and how games and game-techniques can help to change people’s behaviour. One aspect mentioned in the video is the classic B=mat, from Fogg’s model of behaviour change that uses motivation, ability and triggers. Thus, games can promote motivation, they can make people learn new abilities and they could function as triggers for people to change their behaviours. Adding to this, games provide real-time feedback, which also helps people to get immediate rewards and improve their behaviours.

There is also the games for change, or in other words, games created to change people’s behaviours, attitudes and perceptions. For example there is a category of games to learn how to manage conflicts, like games that show the how difficult it is to live in war zones and so on. There is also the World Peace board game, which helps players wot work in teams in order to understand political conflicts and make important decisions. Other games also enhance social collaboration, which can be very useful while dealing with conflicts not only in the theme of the game with within the dynamics between players. Perhaps we should be designing more games like these.

2- Using technology for good

This is quite broad but it involves a lot of tech for good and tech for peace. The insight here is that when we interact with systems we create a large amount of data, which can be tracked and can be used to enhance human experience positively. This place here is already doing this type of research. This is quite based on Persuasive Technology, which tends to bring triggers and tools to help to decrease conflict and empower peace makers, for example. With AI no, it is possible that machine learning could predict possible conflicts in the future and avoid them. However I’m not sure how this would work yet, but it might be already happening. From the design perspective I believe that this should be designed based on respect – respect of values, respect of cultural backgrounds, respect of beliefs and human rights. Yet, I still think that technology could be used as a way to explore cooperation and collaboration. That is, peace can’t be done by one individual – it is a collective experience. Thus, if technology could enhance our network and make it stronger, we could make a change. Perhaps communities might emerge through technology empowerment. Some are already there.

3- Designing for empathy

One thing that came in my mind was empathy and virtual reality (VR). That is, VR can teach empathy, since it provides an immersive connection between the user and the environment. In other words, people could live in the “skin” of others and therefore understand their issues. Empathy has always been in the agenda of Design Thinking and all design-related techniques. We need to design for people; thus, it is good to know what they would need, desire, think, feel and so on. In the case of conflict and peace, empathy is crucial. We don’t know what the others are thinking, or if something happened to them before getting into a fight. People don’t know your stories unless you tell them.

4- Positive design

You’ve probably heard about ad blockers. Now imagine if you could have negativity blocker and just read and embrace positive news, interactions and so on. Designing for positivity should be key. Why people are reacting with hate? Perhaps something in the media? Let’s admit, we have been bombarded by so many negative news. People losing jobs, economic crisis, poverty and other things. Can we get something positive out of this? Is there something that we could do? There is this framework for Positive Design, which combines Design for Virtue, Design for Personal Significance and Design for Pleasure. I would say that perhaps the one that would require more work is the virtue side. How can we include moral aspects without imposing them? What a big challenge for designers! Perhaps if I didn’t have any moral or virtue I would have argued with the old man in the bus – who knows? The framework is very good, but I would say that we need to think about the collective as well as the individual.

5- Culture matters

Understanding culture is another thing that we should do as designers. We need to work together to respect values, symbols and rituals from people that have other cultures, values, religions and so on. Cultural differences exist but also do cultural similarities. I know we tend to focus too much on what is different – but what about the things that we share? What are the values that we share?

6- Collective design

Change can come from the individual but it will only have a big impact if it is a collective change, especially in the case of peace. I know that alone I can make some difference. For example, I decided not to argue with the old man in the bus and I will never put my foot on the seat again. But the impact we tend to see in the collective side of things. This is where we should get out of our bubbles and collaborate, cooperate. Tech can help us to do this. Let’s use it.


What can we do? We could use technology to empower communities. And we could all start thinking differently and embrace diversity. We could use tech to help us change our behaviour. But most importantly, we need to WANT this change. I think that even with all those tech around us, we still need to acknowledge that we need to change our behaviour. Perhaps games could help to trigger this “willingness” to change – or perhaps just provocative art could make people think about those issues – or just VR could create empathy and make us change. There is still a lot to do. This is why I say to people that culture is important, values are important – but most importantly, we are HUMANS. So please, be kind, respect others and smile. Look up to the stars and think.

#EWIGCONF 2016 – Design challenges in Virtual Reality games

VR and player comfort
In early September this year (2016) we had the opportunity to attend to the European Women in Games Conference 2016 at the Greenwich University. It was a very good conference, lots of great people from both industry and academia, asking questions about the games industry, diversity and cutting-edge technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR).
In this post I will try to bring a little bit from 1 session that I’ve attended: the VR workshop.

The main topic of the workshop was “Presenting the main issues while implementing Virtual Reality”. In this talk, Laura Dilloway from Guerrilla Cambridge introduced us challenges and possible guidelines for the creation of games in VR environments. I might say that most of the content in the talk was new to me. Laura showed the case of the RIGS Mechanized Combat League, the new game from Playstation that features a combat with robots in different arenas.
First of all, VR is quite new, so we could ask questions like if there are different rules and possible different gameplay in games that use VR, for example. Some of the design challenges are related to player immersion and presence like:

  • Giving the player a body
  • Correct the placement of camera
  • Physical body motion
  • Enduring that everything is in the right place

In fact, as designers we have to review the way the player perceive the world as the position of the camera is crucial.
There is also a challenge related to the sense of scale, which could be conveyed by other elements in the game environment. Crowds and doors are a few examples. The assets need to be in realistic sizes.
Another aspect mentioned by Laura is that when creating in virtual reality you need to test it all the time. We should not underestimate VR! The relationship between 360 movement and fixed point should also be considered.
In the end of the day, interface design is the main strategy when dealing with VR games and player comfort. As a designer you can use optic flow and brightness in order to bring comfort to the player. Try not to use absolute black and white for example. Materials could be used in the same way. For example, when you walk the character you could leave footprints in the sand. For ground rush, the choice for material should be strategic. Designers should also bear in mind that sometimes some details are not rendered with enough pixels.
One point raised by Laura was that everybody’s eyes are different so we need to test with a wider audience. This shows that testing is crucial. Thus, one way to solve this problem of diversity is to bring more choices in the game. Yet, it is still a big challenge. One strategy mentioned in the talk was the use of blinkers in order to avoid peripheral vision by the players.
The biggest question about virtual reality is still player comfort. Don’t take away the camera from the player. One advice is to avoid placing things directly in front of the player. As Laura mentioned, performance is king, and I totally agree. As designers we could use defaults like 60fps and mart usage of dynamic lights and correction of player view camera. By using horizontal lines we could also help the player to situate the camera correctly. It is all about the position of the camera.

Another strategy presented by Laura was that designers tend to “climatize” people through tutorials until they get used to it while playing the game. I think this could be a very successful way to bring people inside the game and provide them all the support and guidance required to proceed in the game. Players should be able to customise their settings according to their preference (always, if possible).

I think that the lessons to take home are that in VR and games we need to test a lot with fresh eyes and we should not be afraid, just because it is new. Using defaults and providing these defaults to the design community could also be one way to make it easier. As it is a cutting-edge technology, we need to share, test and publish as much as we can. We will get there! Thanks, Laura!

Follow Laura here: @GuerrillaLaura

Read more:
On-device motion tracking for immersive VR: Freedom from wires
New RIGS Mechanized Combat League trailer shows off Dubai arena

MacCready, your best friend

In June 2016 we’ve bought the Fallout 4 game, after a long time dreaming of playing it. You’ve probably downloaded the mobile version of the Fallout 4 before the release, right? Fallout Shelter was great – and it taught us a lot about how to survive in Fallout 4. But what called my attention was the idea of having companions during our missions.

First, you start with nothing and then you find a dog – Dogmeat. The dog is cute and makes you feel less lonely during the quests in the wasteland. As we know, if you’re hiding, forget about it – the dog will be around biting things. This changes when you start having a human companion – MacCready.

A funny friend

MacCready is not a typical friend and it takes a while for that to happen. He is a companion and he wants to be paid to do the work. He likes when you steal things and with time he can become your friend, just making jokes during the game. I must admit, Bethesda has done a pretty good job there while developing NPCs. I can’t even say that MacCready is a non-playing character – he makes jokes, he is funny and he is unique. And what is interesting about that is that your decisions in the game can increase or decrease your affinity with companions. Read this post in Reddit and then you will know a bit more what I’m talking about.

Actions vs. Personality

Look at this chart. Things that you do in the game not only impact your overall progress but they also impact the way your companion perceives you. What is fascinating is the different aspects and personalities that emerge from those decisions. What makes such character so believable? Maybe the jokes, maybe the non-expected reactions. This is definitely something to think about. In the end, it is a bit of psychology involved. It makes you think about the things that create and maintain good relationships. Not only that, if your character is a woman you can start a romance!

Copyright: Fallout 4, Bethesda
Copyright: Fallout 4, Bethesda

You’ve been through so many things together, so many quests, so many bad and good moments. I bet this made people feel more engaged with the game.

A lesson from MacCready

In my opinion, there is a lot to learn from MacCready in terms of design and artificial intelligence. First, what makes friends good friends – and how to implement this in games. Technology becomes more human – and we develop a kind of affinity towards it. Now image how this could be used to motivate people to do other things. If you’re recovering from a certain illness or if you want to improve some skills. Having a friend becomes more than just a support. It is a way to match your actions, a way to make you reflect about your decisions. This is just the beginning.

Read more:

Why MacCready is my favorite companion from Fallout