In addition to playing sports (rock climbing and body boarding), Martin and I also love to play games. Once a week we try to play Settlers (of Catan) or Puerto Rico or our new favorite, Caylus, at the Pub on Solano, my second home. Martin also loves video games and my friend Whitney turned us on to a new video game called Guitar Hero. It’s one of those reality video games where your joystick is a toy guitar and you play the notes that come up on the screen to songs like Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock and Roll” or Boston’s “More Than a Feeling.” It’s so fun and addictive. We went to a party at Whitney’s house last month and spent the whole night playing this thing. With two guitars you can compete against each other. The only downside is the game is only made for PS2 and we have an XBox, so if we want the game we also have to buy a PS2.
I discovered another great game tonight on the New York Times website. It’s called Peacemaker. The way it works is you play either the Israeli Prime Minister or the Palestinian president and your goal is to negotiate peace. One player said he learned more about the Israeli-Palestinian crisis from playing this game than he has from reading the newspaper for ten years. I believe it. Games are a great way to learn. And this game couldn’t be more timely with the Israelis and Hesbollah blowing each other up right now. The UN also has a game called Food Force, which teaches about the difficulties of dispensing food to war zones. MTV has a game called Darfur is Dying in which players try to escape the Janjaweed while looking for water, and a Serbian youth movement has created A Force More Powerful, a game that teaches principles of nonviolent strategy. And the best part? Food Force and Darfur is Dying are free. I’m downloading Food Force right now. A Force More Powerful is just $20 (but runs on PCs only) and Peacemaker will be free when it’s ready for general distribution.