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Serious Game Countering Violent Extremism

Image credit: Naval Postgraduate School/Dept. of Defense Analysis/Global ECCO

Contagion, developed by the Naval Postgraduate School Department of Defense Analysis and Global ECCO, was selected as a finalist in the 2019 Serious Games Showcase and Challenge in the Government Category.

Contagion is a multiplayer, turn-based strategy game that introduces players to how terrorists spread their ideologies and how states counter that with their own ideology. Both sides try to gain as much popular support as possible, all while also denying their opponent support. With limited resources, players must choose whether to defend their gains against attacks or grow their support in new areas. They must also weigh the value of promoting their own message versus undermining their opponent's message.

While the game is won by gaining sufficient popular support, players can also choose to take actions to undermine their rivals. For every agent placed or boost enacted, players can choose between a positive message, a mixed message (half the power of both positive and negative), or a negative message. Players must pay attention to their opponent's actions and make strategic choices between expanding their own control or undermining their opponent's loyalty, or a little bit of both.

Aimed at military and civilian equivalents focused on areas of combating terrorism, the game reinforces general concepts around messaging and counter messaging to combat the spread of violent extremist ideology.

By utilizing simultaneous turns for both sides, state and opposition, the developers have favored a more strategic and transparent gameplay, and made every turn more meaningful, sustaining players’ motivation to complete the game.

Players begin by choosing their Ideology type and given an initial income and an amount of influence placed randomly within the State.

Image credit: Naval Postgraduate School/Dept. of Defense Analysis/Global ECCO

Players are shown a map view of the State which is divided into several Regions. Each Region is further divided into Districts. Each District displays how much of each Ideology that district is aligned with.

Image credit: Naval Postgraduate School/Dept. of Defense Analysis/Global ECCO

Players will spend their income on a number of different actions available to them. Once all players have finished, the turns are processed simultaneously, and a new turn begins. Income is gained each turn based on which Regions and Districts are controlled and a cost is deducted for upkeep of active Agents.

Any player who controls at least 4 Regions or 15 individual Districts, wins the game. Since both players take their turns simultaneously, it is possible to end the game with a tie.

Image credit: Naval Postgraduate School/Dept. of Defense Analysis/Global ECCO

About Global ECCO
Global ECCO's (Education Community Collaboration Online) hosts a variety of interactive modules, including a progressive multimedia journal, strategic gaming applications, and an original and ongoing collection of operator archives from those who have fought in the war on terrorism. It also provides access to daily counter-terrorism news and a ‘curated' collection of blogs and resources on all facets of terrorism, violent extremism and radicalization.