For most Israelis, the BDS effort against Israel is mainly reflected in the well-publicized fight against concerts of well-known musicians in Israel. Famous musicians are afraid to come to Israel for fear of ostracism and attacks by supporters of BDS. But boycotting Israel is not limited just to the culture industry. An American game designer recently refused to come and give a lecture in Israel and to participate in an exhibition about empathy and games, which was part of a major conference here in Israel.
There is a cliché in the game industry that games can save the world. I believe in all my heart that this is true. The deep emotional experience games deliver produces an opportunity to discover something which is beyond the everyday. Through games we meet other people, encounter ethical dilemmas we’ve been avoiding and deal with new realities, either imagined or corresponding with the actual world. This allows game designers to engage the players in a variety of serious issues which they, in turn, can engage with and learn about.
You can find games about a variety of serious issues – survival of refugees after a war, games about assisting the weak, games that teach about poverty, games that teach survival after a tsunami. Recently, even violent war games produce more and more scenarios in which the player fails if she does not help innocent civilians. These are all examples indicating how to combine knowledge, learning, values and meaningful experience within gameplay, and through it to offer a way to change society and educate masses of players.
Recently, the Israeli Digital Game Industry Association (known as GameIS) held a survey with the College of Management which showed that 56% of Israelis over the age of 18 play games regularly. This impressive figure proves that games are among the most popular forms of entertainment in Israel. Not to engage in social change through them is a sure miss. Playing a game is a social experience: the experience of meeting. talking about games, competing with friends – these are social activities which are popular with many Israelis. Already here in Israel some have quite successfully began to harness games for social and political change. For example, Games for Peace, founded by Uri Mishol, aims to bring together youth and children of Arab and Jewish communities through game play, thus creating an informal and surprising meeting.
BDS against the Israeli digital game industry is not only harmful to the Israeli economy, but mostly harmful to the hope that the Middle East can be a different place. The world is changing through games, the buds of it are already present. Harm an industry which is so positive and optimistic as the digital games industry, and you will get a boomerang effect. You’ll hurt the future possibility of Israel and Palestine to live side by side. BDS is blindly hitting all who live and are affected by Israeli-Palestinian politics. BDS on the games industry means severe damage to the efforts to educate and promote values of understanding, and to the common good of all people who live here, who are eager for a better future and a different reality.