03 June 2021

Playing Global Order : Can video games reinforce good behaviours towards a better world?

On June 3rd 2021, the Think Tank Hub had the pleasure to welcome for a virtual Think Tank Talk three experts in humanitarian law and video games to discuss the potential of gaming as a foreign policy tool.

About the topic

When thinking about foreign policy tools, one probably wouldn’t do a direct link with video games. Yet they are already used by some governments as a tool of soft power. Video games are the most used cultural medium in contemporary times and always promote certain values and worldviews. The gameplay creates sympathies and antipathies for protagonists and encourages certain behaviors while punishing others. While video games tend to be associated with terror attacks, little attention has been given to the potential that video games can have for reinforcing positive behaviours. 


Focusing on the issue of war and humanitarian law, this Think Tank Talk focused on the following questions:  

  • Do video games become less marketable by promoting good causes? 
  • What is the potential of video games for foreign policy strategies?



Elizabeth M.H. Newbury

Director - Serious Games Initiative, Wilson Center

Manouchehr Shamsrizi

Research fellow on gaming for/in foreign policy - Impact & Innovation Lab, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik (DGAP)

Ewan Watson

Head of Cross-Media, International Committee of the Red Cross

5 key takeaways

1. Video games can lower the barrier of entry into difficult topics, like policy matters.

2. There is a need to think beyond the fun side of video games, especially because of data collection and the serious political messages games can contain.

3. There is a need to urge governments and non-governmental actors to monitor what is happening in the gaming world and to use the principle of responsibility to protect (R2P) in the gaming industry.

4. There is a risk that war crimes could be normalized in video games and that people are not aware of what is forbidden during real wars. The relationship between video games and international humanitarian law must be reinforced.

5. Interactivity and repetition are very important but gamers should also receive punishments in video games in order to show that they violated the law of war.

Event replay