October 13, 2015
Recent research conducted by ScienceDaily shows that playing cooperative video games, as opposed to playing competitive or solo games, elicits a host of social benefits among players of different backgrounds. The evidence suggests that it encourages teammates to see helpful, collaborative behaviors as both valuable and commonplace.
Further, these pro-social benefits extend beyond the virtual realm and can help decrease aggression and increase harmony between teammates and opposing players in real life. Bandura Games has made it their mission to bridge this gap between opposing groups throughout the world via cooperative gaming.
We’re not talking small potatoes here either. In 2014, during the war in Gaza, Bandura Games’ Founder Justin Hefter assembled an American, Israeli, and Palestinian team to survey hundreds of Israeli and Palestinian youth.
He found that over 85 percent of both Israeli and Palestinian kids had access to, and played, games on smartphones and tablets. Despite the violence surrounding them, over 50 percent of their favorite games were nonviolent.
Bandura’s team also discovered that 80 percent of the youth preferred the cooperative version to the competitive version. It was that moment when Hefter and the Bandura Games team decided to engineer peace building cooperative games, not just for Israeli and Palestinian youth, but also for people all over the world.
I had an opportunity to sit down with Hefter and learn more about Bandura Games and their startup journey:
Tech.Co: What does Bandura Games specifically target?
Justin Hefter: International conflict is increasing because people are becoming more segregated. Even on social media, people are only friends with their existing networks. Bandura games are designed to connect people from across conflict zones, so that violence is less likely in the future.
Tech.Co: How did you build your team to incorporate America, Israel, and Palestine?
Hefter: Our team came together and bonded over our love of video games, but it was a very serendipitous process how we met. I met Etay through a Jewish entrepreneurship fellowship, and when I told him the idea for Bandura Games, he immediately loved it: he had previously worked for the largest gaming community in Israel, gamer.co.il.
As we searched for a third person, Etay thought of Ammoun, who had had met while on a peace program in Germany several years prior. Ammoun had just participated in a video game workshop in Jordan. I didn’t know either of them before this process, but our love of video games ended up being the link that connected us across American, Israeli and Palestinian lines.
Tech.Co: What was the process for your first iteration?
Hefter: When we started designing the game, we first interviewed hundreds of Israeli and Palestinian kids to understand their game preferences. Based on the overlap and the mutual love for games like Temple Run and Subway Surfer, we decided to base our idea on that.
We wanted to find a story that would resonate for people all over the world and cut across cultures. We chose to base our game around fun or cute animals because we wanted to avoid any prejudices or biases that come with having human characters. Escaping the confines of our immediate surroundings and reaching a land where everyone can get along is what we aspire for humanity, and so we applied that story to the animals – they are escaping the zoo and running to a far away land where the animal kingdom lives in peace and harmony.
RunZoo is the first of what we hope will be many games. We think one game can definitely help create peace, but we will need to launch several games and build a community around our games in order to create the lasting change that we envision. Bandura Games has lofty goals and plans to be a game company that sticks around for the long-term.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
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