When we go on a Quaker course, it almost always begins with some sort of getting-to-know-you game, a game of trust, bonding and community building. We all know it is artificial but we do it and it works. My point is Quakers use games.

Eric Burne’s Games People Play introduced the real-life patterns of ulterior motives and behaviours, games, to the scientific community.

It occurred to me, as I was looking for something more than the conventional chalk-and-talk education and training, that games provide a cut-down, abstracted world with suspended disbelief that might serve as a field-laboratory and exercise-ground for interpersonal skills and designer relationships.

Games have been part of the human experience for millennia and appear to be characteristic of humans. They have been used for many purposes from passing the time, making moral decisions to teaching a world view to learning strategic skills. One view of Poker might be that it teaches one to hide expression and to bluff convincingly. Games also serve a social role in bringing people together in an innocuous activity such as Bridge, Charads, Bingo and so on.

From here is was a small step (with the help of my grandchildren) into the world of computer games. Computer games have come along way from Space invaders and Pong on the Atari. The first computer program that I wrote, about 40 years ago was to play an interactive game based on the Fox-and-geese board game. At first I was appalled at the emphasis on violence and war and the fundamental role of conflict – a trait that it shares with drama in literature. Big, hardcore games go well beyond this like adults who graduate from the playground. Cooperation, working in groups and so on have come to the fore even in games such as Warcraft and Rhunescape. On-line games surprisingly also serve a social purpose and there is a recognised genre of social gaming accessed through social network sites.

Exploring this has led me to re-examine my attitude to peace and re-consider the role of conflict and even violence in our lives and in Quakerism.

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