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Positive Play: Can gamification support P/CVE measures?

By Linda Schlegel.


In the last years, the ‘gamification of extremism’ has gained an increasing amount of attention in both research and practice. From the development of original games and the modification of existing popular games such as Call of Duty, to the use of in-game chats and gaming adjacent platforms for communication and recruitment purposes, the appropriation of video game aesthetics and references, as well as the transfer of game elements such as points and rankings to contexts outside of games, extremists make increasing use of elements of ‘play’ in the online sphere.

Both right-wing extremist actors as well as Islamists seek to utilize the appeal of game elements for their ends, for instance by adding ranking systems to their forums and Discord servers or by appropriating the visual style of popular first-person shooter games in their propaganda videos and livestreamed attacks via helmet cameras. Such gaming elements have multiple advantages, including generating attention, increasing the ‘coolness’ of propaganda by mimicking popular culture, but also by providing positive reinforcement as well as the opportunity for competition and social connection while ‘playing’.

As game elements have large popular appeal and seem to play a role in extremist communication as well as, potentially, in digital radicalization processes, it is logical to ask whether game components could also support P/CVE measures. Both research and practical experiences of using gamification in efforts against digital extremism must currently be regarded as limited and severely underdeveloped. The following article briefly introduces gamification and then discusses preliminary ideas of possible avenues for the application of gamified elements in digital P/CVE approaches. It is based on the recently published RAN paper “The gamification of violent extremism & lessons for P/CVE” and is meant as an invitation to discuss potential applications of gamification in prevention and intervention work rather than as an established recommendation.

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Bild: William Daigneault /