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February 13, 2012

Trialogue - A game about understanding Islam

Two Marymount Manhattan students, Emil Lendof and Patrick Barcinas, who recently completed a course in creating Digital Games developed a game for the Network for Peace through Dialogue. Their class assignment was to design a digital game that would have a positive social influence. They chose the Network as an organization doing good work, and after meeting with Network staff, they decided to build a game around the Network's Understanding Islam dialogues that were taking place in their school.

The course has been completed. Emil and Patrick demonstrated their game for a small group attending a Living Room Dialogue in February set up for that purpose. After the students gave instructions for playing the game, the group formed four teams. Each team was assigned a different color, had an opportunity to compete in the game as well as a turn to be the judges of players on the other teams.

Two sets of words had been programmed into the game. One set was made up of words associated with Islam, such as "Isha, a prayer," "Zakat," dues paid to the poor, "Hijab, a head covering." The other set consisted of random adjectives. After a word came up, say "Hijab," the computer shuffled the adjectives so that there was one adjective for each team. The adjectives might be something like "plausible," "questionable," "pleasant," or "protective." The job of the team was to come up with a persuasive argument about why the adjective it had been assigned accurately described the word.

It might happen that the adjective a team received did not represent their thinking, but they had to defend it anyway. Emil and Patrick said that by arguing for something they did not agree with, players would be led to think about different points of view "from the inside," as if they believed it were true. For "Hijab," the team might think that a woman had the right to wear a head covering if she wanted to, but they might receive the adjective "questionable." That would be the perspective they would have to defend.

After the teams had presented their arguments, the team of judges would discuss the various positions and decide which was the most persuasive. At the dialogue evening, there were several rounds, and each team had a turn to be the judges.

There was lots of opportunity for discussion in the game, first among team members and then among judges. All the players enjoyed it.

The students said the game was to be played either before or after a presentation by a person knowledgeable about Islam, so that misconceptions could be met with correct information.

Staff from the Network were pleased to learn that the game could be easily adapted for other discussions simply by changing the lists of characteristic words and adjectives. All thanked Emil and Patrick for their work.



Patrick Barcinas and Emil Lendof

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