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Territorial Conflicts Among Various Countries Media Essay

Territorial conflicts among countries can result massive loss of lives and destruction and subsequently lead to social upheaval and tension in a country when citizens become increasingly disillusioned with the government’s ability to rule. Also, in the case of Singapore, minor territorial conflicts can significantly strain foreign relations with the affected country and results in negative repercussions. For example, the long-standing territorial conflict between Singapore and Malaysia regarding the railways has lead to strained relations. If no attempts have been made to resolve the conflict, Malaysia may cut off relations with Singapore permanently and the water agreements between the nations would be voided. With the loss of water supply from Malaysia, it would definitely have a significant impact on the lives of the citizens of Singapore. Thus, there is clearly a need to revise and evaluate the alternative approaches to bring people closer to resolve territorial conflicts between nations.

Conventional Approach: Peace Agreements

Examples of peace agreements signed in an attempt to resolve territorial conflicts include the famous Treaty of Versailles which is considered one key reason for the occurrence of World War II (WWII) and;[1]and;and the Oslo Accords which was a milestone in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Treaty was signed reluctantly by the Germans on 28th June 1919 in the Palace of Versailles, after many threats from the victorious countries – Britain, France and United States of America (USA). The Oslo Accords were finalized in Oslo, Norway on 20th August 1993, and subsequently officially signed at a public ceremony in Washington D.C. on 13th September 1993.

The main advantage of this approach is that it is able to maintain peace between both nations. For example, in the conflict between Egypt and Israel, a peace agreement, Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty was signed on 26th March 1979 by the governments of both nations and witnessed by the then President of USA, Jimmy Carter. The fact that there is no on-going conflict between the two nations suggest that the peace agreement has not only been effective in making the resolution of the conflict a more probable aim, but had actually succeeded in doing so.

A disadvantage of peace agreements is that it can exacerbate the tension between the two nations. For instance, the Treaty resulted in the Germans resenting Britain, France and USA as they felt that they were unfairly treatedand;[2]and;. These resentments were buried but they led to the growth of extremism within the country. Hence, Hitler was able to play on the grievances of the Germans to gain power and this ultimately results in WWII.

Secondly, peace agreements require the cooperation of both nations in order for them to work. For instance, in the case of the Treaty, the Germans refused to pay for the reparation which was about 7% of their Gross National Product (GNP). Also, the Oslo Accords had failed due to the reluctance of the Israeli to honour itand;[3]and;. Hence, should one of the countries choose not to keep to the agreement, the existence of the peace agreement will be meaningless as both nations are no closer to resolving the conflict.

Peace agreements would only be successful if the countries honour the agreement as a compromise is reached. Also, peace agreements are used because they are thought to be able to address the root cause of territorial conflicts as they ensure that both nations receive a fair share of the territory, hence the resolution of conflict becomes a more probable aim. In fact, the key underlying concept of peace agreements is that it is hoped that through effective communications between the two nations, the diplomats and politicians of both countries would make resolving the conflict a more probable goal. Thus, better goals such as improving economy as well as technological advancements can be achieved as opposed to wasting time and resources on trying to gain a better stand in the conflict. However, history has proved that a peace agreement is not always the best method as the countries involved may not want to honour it, or it is perceived to be unfair to a certain party of the conflict.

Alternative Approaches

Use of force

According to Dr. Máire Dugan, the developer of Masters in Conflict Resolution curriculum at Columbia College, force and coercion are used as substitute words for power. Power is in turn defined by Hans Morgenthau in his book Politics Among Nations:  The Struggle for Power and Peace. as “anything that establishes and maintains the control of man over man.” Hence, the concept of this alternative is to protect the country’s interest forcing the other nation to give up claims on the disputed territory through any means possible, be it violence or coercion. This would in turn, bring the two countries closer to resolving the conflict.

The advantage is that it can create a generation of patriotic youths within both nations. This is due to the fact that the citizens may perceive that they are fighting against a common enemy. Hence, the country’s unity will increase. This is evident in the case of WWII where the Japanese saw themselves as the ‘natural leaders of Asia’ and that they have to protect the rest of Asia from being colonized by the western powers. Another key advantage would be that the country with a stronger military force will be able to pressurise the other nation into agreeing to her demands. For instance, during WWII, Japan was forced to surrender completely to the Allied forces or to face the annihilation of its people.

While it is possible for alliances to be formed to strengthen the country’s military force, as shown in the Korean War where South Korea is supported by United Nations (UN) and North Korea is supported by China, a stalemate will be the eventual result. This occurs when one or both sides of warring countries are on the verge of complete destruction in terms of economy and society. This is evident in the conclusion of an armistice in Korean War where the two Koreas accepted the 38th parallel as the frontierand;[4]and;.

One disadvantage of using force is massive loss of lives and destruction. For instance, the Korean War resulted in the deaths of approximately 2,000,000 Koreans, 600,000 Chinese, 37,000 Americans, and 3,000 Turks, Britons, and other nationals in the UN forces. Many war veterans are permanently psychologically impacted and are unable to leave behind the trauma of Vietnam. They struggle with a variety of problemsand;[5]and;that would result in difficulty in re-integrating into society and subsequently alienation as the community fails to understand and cope with these problems.

In conclusion, while attempting to resolve conflict through the use of force is successful in instances like the Korean War, the countries will suffer a huge economic loss and social impact. The citizens would also be increasingly disillusioned with the government’s ability and cease to support the government. Thus, the countries will end up no closer to resolving the conflict.

Use of games

An example of utilising game to bring people one step closer to solving conflicts between nations is none other than Peacemaker (Fig 1). Peacemaker is a simulation game whereby players can choose the perspective of either the Israeli or Palestinian prime minister, with the aim of achieving peace.

The principal concept underlying this alternative approach is to engage the youths through a viable avenue so as to interest and inspire them to do something to resolve the conflict. The youths are targeted because they are the future leaders of the nations and should they be motivated to resolve the conflict, it will end the vicious cycle of the conflict, where youths are previously influenced by their parents and possessed warped perspectives about the conflict.

Such an alternative approach has been considered as the conventional approach of peace agreements have been shown to be ineffective in bringing the people closer to resolving the conflicts. For instance, in the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is evident that the Oslo Agreement was a failureand;[6]and;. Furthermore, there is a need for such a game as the people may be bombarded with biased news about the conflict. In fact, a study done by Ratna Pelle and the Stichting W.A.A.R., a foundation that monitors media bias on the Middle East conflict has shown that 66% of news articles, 84% of background articles and 86% of opinion pieces examined showed bias towards the Palestiniansand;[7]and;. As such, the game is deemed as necessary as it can provide the people with an unbiased view of the conflictand;[8]and;by allowing its player play from the perspective of either Israeli or Palestinian prime minister. With the ability of the players to walk in the shoes of the both factions, they will be able to have an objective view of the conflict and consequently achieve true understanding about the conflict.

Most importantly, this approach’s main objective is to involve the citizens of the countries stricken with conflicts, mainly the youths. The youths are the main target audience as they are the future leaders of the nations and hence, there is a need for them to understand the seriousness of the conflict and its true nature. Upon understanding more about the conflict and its seriousness, the youths would be motivated to achieve peace. Hence, the conflict is a step closer to be being resolved.

The main advantage of this approach is that players are provided with an unbiased view of the conflict, thus ensuring true understanding about the conflict from various perspectivesand;[9]and;. The different perspectives will ensure that the Israelis and Palestinian players are aware that they are actually not much different from each other and that the conflict is the root of all their problems. Hence, they will desire and do all they can to achieve peace between their nations, so as to improve their lives.

The disadvantage is that the majority of the population does not have access to computersand;[10]and;. Therefore, it is difficult for the game to fulfill its true potential as its target players are unable to play the game.

With the people moving closer to resolving conflicts through the use of games, it is clear that the beneficiaries of the game is none other than the very people live in the conflict everyday.

The approach is largely successful as Arun Gandhi, Founder, MK Gandhi Institute for Non-violence felt that Peacemaker is ground-breaking and will make resolution of conflicts even more plausibleand;[11]and;. Also, such games are able to touch the hearts of the players, enabling them to empathize with the citizens who are living in the countries distressed with conflict. This is shown when an American player, Afsoun Yazdian was quoted, “At first I played on the Israeli side and my reaction was the Palestinian President is being so unfair and hard. So then I switched sides, and literally for the first time in my life was truly able to see the situation from the other side. You are going to have such a big impact with this game.  You already have with one self proclaimed Zionist.”

Furthermore, the game Darfur is Dying (Fig. 2), which is based on the internal conflict in Darfur, Sudan, has shown that games are indeed a viable channel to engage the youth and inspire them to do something to resolve conflicts. The New York Times reported that “tens of thousands entered an ''action'' area of the game -- political action, that is -- where they can send e-mail messages to politicians and demand action on Darfur.”. This implies that the use of games has been successful in its aim to move not only the citizens of the countries involved in the conflicts, but also the international community, a step closer towards resolving the conflict.

Using games to bring people closer to resolving a conflict is therefore a better choice. It is much less costly compared to a warfare and allow the players of the game to understand other perspectives of a conflict. The engagement of the players is the key difference between this approach and other approaches, and it is this difference that would bring the citizens closer to resolving conflicts between countries.

Figure 1: Peacemaker’s Insignia (Image from www.fahad.com)

Figure 2: Darfur is Dying Start Screen

Problem Identified

The concept of using game to bring people closer to solving conflicts between nations is chosen to be applied to involve and inspire the youths in order to be closer to resolving compulsive gambling as a social issue.

Reasons for Choice

Gambling is a serious prevailing social issue that has the potential to accelerate into a global crisis. In fact, the recent growth of gambling problems among youth around the world is alarmingand;[12]and;. In fact, according to a paper written by Jacobs DF which is available on PubMed.gov, “two out of three legally underage youth have gambled for money.”

With the expansion of the gambling industry and the increased availability of gambling avenues, more youths have become attracted to the perceived excitement, and financial freedom associated with gambling. For example, today’s children and teens in North America are the first generation of youth to grow up in a society where a multiplicity of types of gambling exists, and gambling venues are not only widely available but also heavily advertised and promoted.

Despite the fact that governments of many nations have implemented regulations which make gambling illegal for youths under the age of 18, there is still a growing number of adolescents who gamble for recreation and entertainment. Most alarming is the fact that there are consistent reports shows that the prevalence rates of probable pathological gambling in youth (4–8%) are considerably higher than rates of pathological gambling in the general adult population (1–3%)and;[13]and;.

In this technological-driven age of today, youths are not only exposed to physical forms of gambling but also virtual gambling. The Internet provides an accessible and largely anonymous route to an otherwise illegal activity for young people internationally, increasing the probability of them getting addicted to gambling. With the threat of compulsive gambling tainting our youths, the future leaders of the world, the stability and economy of countries will definitely be at risk. Thus, clearly, there is a need to engage and involve the youths through a viable channel to prevent the outbreak of such global crisis and to be closer to eliminating compulsive gambling as a global issue.

Games is the avenue that is chosen to engage the youths as it has been shown that youths spend approximately 27 hours playing video games like Maple Story and World of WarCraft (WOW)and;[14]and;. Furthermore, games have far-reaching benefits on their players as shown by the cited examples in the previous section and by the following studies. In fact, according to the many researches done by Dr. Douglas Gentile from Iowa State University, players of games in which characters helped people “were most likely to help, share, cooperate, and empathize with others.”and;[15]and;Hence, it is clear that through the creation of a gambling Role-Playing Game (RPG), it would provide a channel to engage the youths who would in turn be motivated to do their part to eliminate pathological gambling as a social issue.

Collection of Primary Data

1. Interview survey

Figure 3 REPORT OF SURVEY ON PARTICIPATION IN GAMBLING ACTIVITIES AMONG SINGAPORE RESIDENTS, 2008 by MINISTRY OF COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT, YOUTH AND SPORTS, 28 MAY 2008and;[16]and;

As the survey has shown, the age group that has most percentage of first gambling and regular gambling participation is 18 to 24. Thus it may be more effective to carry out the project on students who are between the ages of 17-20, namely polytechnic students and junior college students.

Before developing a prototype of the game, there is a need to cross-reference with secondary data that games are indeed a viable avenue to reach out to youths in Singapore. As such, we intend to conduct a survey among youths that are between the ages of 17-20 years old, to get a general understanding on their preferred entertainment activities and their understanding of compulsive gambling and determine if using game as a medium would be successful in engaging them to do something about compulsive gambling so that the aim of eliminating this social issue becomes even more probable. By knowing the genre of computer game they prefer, our prototype can be modified to have stronger appeal to our target players. The sample size of the first survey will be 100 youths from various post-secondary institutes to obtain more comprehensive data.

Following the pilot test at a selected polytechnic, another survey can be carried out to determine how effective the game has been in its objective of engaging the youths. This survey can be conducted via face-to-face interviews as it is possible to ask specific questions and observe the respondents’ reactions.

2. Interviews

Interviews can be conducted by contacting the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG). The purpose of the interviews is to obtain expert opinions about the effectiveness of utilizing games as a channel to raise awareness about compulsive gambling amongst youths. The interviewees are psychologists, counselors and social workers. With their invaluable advice, improvements can be made to further enhance its potential to effectively involve and inspire the youths to do something in order to make the aim of eliminating compulsive gambling more probable.

Similarly, with the help of NCPG, interviews can also be conducted with ex-problem gamblers so as to obtain deeper insights on their past “obsession” towards gambling and the underlying motivation for them to quit. The information they can potentially provide would allow us to further modify our game such that it may ultimately evolve into a game that not only engages and involves youths, but also used as a tool to help compulsive gamblers in their quest to quit.

Also, interviews can be arranged with professional and aspiring young gamers to assess if such a game would garner their attention. They can be contacted via emails and interviews with young gamers can be arranged through schools. This is because there are clubs in schools where aspiring gamers gather to discuss and exchange tips about gaming.

Game concept of the alternative approach

Players can choose from 3 different perspectives – a child of a family affected by compulsive gambling, a gambler, and that of gambler’s friend.

Game play of the child’s point of view:

Main Quests: Protecting his/her savings from the gambler and obtaining enough food and provision to survive.

The concept used here is similar to that of Tower Defence. Therefore, the piggy bank will be the “Tower” and the child will be the character trying to protect it. The gambler is to be portrayed as a character larger and slightly powerful than the child. This requires skills and strategy from the player to protect the piggy bank.

Also, the food and provision is scattered across the map. They require players to gather them and maintain their energy level. Failure to do so will result in the character going into a comatose and be unable to protect the piggybank.

Game play of the gambler’s point of view:

Main Quests: Accumulate a fixed amount of money (e.g. $10,000) and not engaging in gambling for a period of more than 2 months (not in real time).

The player will have the choice of working 10 hours to earn $60, going to horse-racing competition, visiting illegal gambling dens, lazing at home, engaging in 4D and TOTO bets.

The probability of them winning is equal to that of the mathematical probability of them winning at that particular game.

The games include blackjack, slot machine, roulette and poker.

The player has to be able to play these games.

When the character lazes at home, he/she will be nagged by the spouse and he/she can choose to take some actions: hitting the spouse, ignore her/him, going out and gamble, engage in an argument and etc.

When working, the player’s level of dissatisfaction with life increases. If the player’s level of dissatisfaction increases too much, the player will automatically engage in gambling.

Thus, to decrease the player’s level of dissatisfaction, he/she can opt to spend time with the family.

Game play of the gambler’s friend point of view:

Main Quests: Convince the gambler to change for the better, while ensuring that he/she does not surrender to the temptation to gamble.

The player will be in the shoes of an honest but poor character. The character has to work 12 hours a day to earn $45.

The gambler friend will encourage the character to gamble and taunt him that gambling is the only way of life.

The taunts occur frequently and the character will be given the following options: to gamble, to follow the gambler but don’t gamble, and to advise the gambler to change for the better.

The first option will result in a situation similar to that of a gambler, whereby the player engages in a game of his/her choice. The probability of him/her winning is the mathematical probability of one winning the game.

The second option will end with the gambler winning a huge sum of money and taunting the player.

The third one will result in an argument between the characters. The player can choose what he/she wants to say from a drop box (somewhat similar to quick chat options in game).

Feasibility and manageability

Feasibility of the project can be supported by the successes enjoyed when similar approach has been employed. Games like My River Cube, Comicky Comics and Moving Right on Track (MRT) have been designed by students to educate their peer about National Education in an engaging and interesting manner. They have been showcased to other schools and the public at events like the MOE Excel Fest and the National Environment Agency (NEA) Schools Carnival during Clean-and-Green Week. Also, it was stated that these games are highly popular within the school. This thus suggests that games are a viable avenue for us to engage and involve the youths which in turn brings the world closer to resolving compulsive gambling as a social issue.

Also, the opening of Singapore’s Integrated Resorts (I.R) has resulted in compulsive gambling becoming a key concern. Thus, institutes like NCPG are likely to support such a project. Plus, the use of games for social change is internationally recognized and supported by organisations like Games for Change (G4C).

However, it is important to recognise the inherent flaws of this project. For one, we lack the necessary programming knowledge to develop such a game. Also, for such a complex game, it would require a relatively long time, which we are unable to accommodate due to time constraints of the project. Hence, to overcome these challenges, we can seek help from students who are proficient in Flash programming to develop a prototype for the pilot test that we have in mind. In return, these students will be awarded CIP hours for their effort. Alternatively, we can develop the game using existing softwares like WarCraft III Map Editor. The possibility of creating the game through such means can be supported by the fact that several aspiring game designers have created games like DoTA and Run Kitty, Kitty Run through this program.

Critics of gaming may be unsupportive of this idea due to threat of game addiction amongst the youths. However, they can be swayed should a safety device be added to the game. For instance, the game can only be played for an hour every day. After which, the game will automatically shut down, thus ensuring that players do not get addicted to it.

In conclusion, this project will be successful as it would be able to engage the target players and results in the world being closer to eliminating pathological gambling as a social issue. Though statisticsand;[17]and;have shown that the campaign has achieved a certain degree of success, it is important to note that the sample size surveyed and ages are not made known. Furthermore, the campaign focuses on transmitting its message through advertisements, which is ineffective as about 95% of people do not watch themand;[18]and;. Despite the existence of the Play it Right campaign by Singapore Management University (SMU) students, it is crucial to note that the repercussions of compulsive gambling is made known to the audience through road shows. Road shows, like talks and speeches, are avenues that have been used and shown to be not very successful in their objective to bring across a message. However, with increasing interest in games as a form of leisure and education, we believe and have seen evidences that games are an effective platform to connect with the youths. This alternative of gaming is definitely useful as its target group is people who are more vulnerable to gambling. The evaluation of the success will be determined by the surveys by the youths of the pilot test of the game.


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