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New game teaches peaceful conflict resolution
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Wed May 21, 2008 9:37 am Reply and quote this post
In recent weeks, roughly in tandem with the release of a certain video game, the issue of what content is okay in games has again been prominent in the media. In response to this controversy is another game called Cool School, where the emphasis is on nonviolent interaction.

Cool School focuses on taking players through a school where just about everything (desks, books, and other objects) are alive and have their own personality. Over the course of ten levels and over 50 different situations designed by Professor Melanie Killen and then-doctoral student Nancy Margie (both of the University of Maryland). The primary goal of the game is to teach students how to solve social conflict through skills like negotiation and cooperation. During the title's development, Killen and Margie were able to work with some talented members of the video game industry, including independent developer F.J. Lennon and animator Dave Warhol.

The project began when Congress allocated funding to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to create a video game. "I was very impressed and intrigued by the fact that the US Government was willing to fund a conflict resolution game for children," Killen told Ars. Killen isn't a stranger to video games; she specializes in human development and has spent over two decades focusing on peer conflict.

Cool School was planned to be shared throughout every US elementary schools until its funding was slashed by Congress. The game is now being digitally distributed, and its spread through the country's school systems is much slower than originally intended. According to Killen, though, there's still a lot of potential for the program: "Would we like to have it used by other schools?  Of course we would. Implementing that is a little more complicated... right now a lot is up in the air. We're hoping that if it takes off, Congress will mandate more funds for it and we can make a version oriented towards older children."

The game's developers have been testing their software out in schools in Illinois, where it has been receiving rave reviews. Having spent a few minutes with the game, it's not hard to see why: with its whimsical nature, unique setting, and positive message, this is a game that just about anyone could get behind. If you have a young child in the house and think this game might be beneficial for them, it's available as a free download here and will play on both Mac OS X and Windows XP.

Contributed by Editorial Team, Executive Management Team
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