In the past couple of years, Europe has seen a major increase in radicalisation and violent extremism. This has lead to heated debates, an increased level of hate speech, extremist protests and even violent attacks and atrocities. Radio La Benevolencija’s GAMER project seeks to counter such extremism through an online educational game.
While the European Union has established different policies and programmes to prevent and counter these negative developments, in-depth knowledge and understanding on these processes of radicalisation and extremism is still lacking. It is clear that in modern Europe, the internet and online world functions as a fertile breeding ground for extremism. Furthermore, the expression of right-wing and extremist attitudes has entered mainstream society and threatens democracy from within.
It seems that, besides the different online social media networks and platforms, gaming communication was often used to coordinate communication before violent attacks, to incite violence, recruit vulnerable individuals and raise funds for their own cause. Rightwing extremist talk is rife on gamer community websites and among the “crew members” of online multiplayer games. Gaming chatrooms furthermore form a powerful yet often undetectable medium for propaganda and incitement to violence.
Young adults (18-35) are considered to be the most vulnerable to such xenophobic narratives and violent practices spread by extremists. In Europe, they also form the majority of social media users and online gamers.
Using the same medium to counter violent narratives and to stimulate positive behaviour change in the audience, can be powerful in countering radicalization and extremism. Radio La Benevolencija is developing an online game, aiming to prevent the online radicalisation of vulnerable EU residents (adults aged 18-35 years old), by creating awareness of the Continuum of Violence and triggering critical thinking among the players. When playing the game, the users learn to recognize how others manipulate their yearning for a sense of hope and community triggered by their own fears, loss of positive identity and social isolation. The behaviour change encouraged by the intervention is one of “active bystandership”, standing up against polarization and disintegration in Europe.
This project is funded by the European Union’s Internal Security Fund.