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Session Name: Mitigating Harm in Design: Extremism and the Gamification of Violence
Speaker(s): Alex Newhouse, Rachel Kowert
Company Name(s): Center on Terrorism, Extremism & Counterterrorism, Take This
Track / Format: Advocacy

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Overview: Historically, discussion around video game content has been disproportionately driven by fears that exposure to extreme content directly contributes to extreme out-of-game behavior. While direct links between violent game content and violent behavior do not exist in the research literature, this line of dialogue has led to a lack of nuanced understanding of how content may nonetheless impact real-world extreme behavior in indirect but significant ways. In this talk, Alex Newhouse and Rachel Kowert will reopen discussions about the influence of extreme game content and share how community factors and design elements in games can serve as inspiration and motivation for extremist behaviors by reinforcing pre-existing beliefs and serving as a center point for radicalization. Examples of how video game content has inspired real-world violence will be given to illustrate these points, including the Charleston church attack of 2015, the Christchurch mosque attack of 2019, and the Buffalo supermarket attack of 2022, as each of these events demonstrated clear markers of inspiration from digital game spaces. The talk will conclude with solutions, including practical tools for design.

Game Developers Conference 2023

Alex Newhouse

Center on Terrorism, Extremism & Counterterrorism

Rachel Kowert

Take This

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