Relationships Between Israelis and Arabs – Thru Gaming?

I learned from my American grandparents – who had family fight in WWII on both fronts – that Germans and Japanese ‘were not like us.’  It was hinted that they were “other” and thus beyond redemption.  I found that hard to believe, but knew of only one way to find out for myself.

I became an exchange student to Germany (AFS) and then to Japan in college (Waseda University).  I proved triumphantly, at least to myself that, generally speaking, Germans and Japanese are not “other.” They are, in fact, just like us.


I learned this by having friends in Germany who I drank beer with, and friends in Japan with whom I drank sake.  I quickly learned that my friends had family issues, academic issues, issues about money – just like my American friends.

We hung out together and our bonds of friendship grew stronger.  Through Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn I have maintained many of those relationships.

But it is expensive to ship kids around the world in pursuit of global understanding.  Few kids want to actively participate in high school or college programs that create cross-cultural dialogue.

I have a 16-year old adopted son who is addicted to watching anime on-line – and can even follow basic Japanese now.

Cyndi Lauer said, Girls just want to have fun.  Believe me, all young people share this universal sentiment.

I was therefore stunned when I stumbled across a game application at last winter’s GSM Association Congress in Barcelona.  This convention, hosted by the leading cell phone technology association, features 49,000 participants and 1,300 venders.

I was there to cover how technology can lift up humanity.  I just don’t like gaming.  Techno games are a waste of time and rarely ever more than gratuitous sex and violence.  I am a chess kind of guy – when I am not working.

So I was just being polite to an Israeli game application company called Skiller when it hit me: Live games have no international boundaries!  They cross all frontiers!

Israelis are playing a game called Skiller with Palestinians, Egyptians, Jordanians – even Iranians.  In the process, they are developing e-friendships as a result.  Jews and Arabs and playing together.

How subversive is that?!  Games used to promote cultural understanding – without the players realizing that they are broadening their horizons – and in the process possibly losing generations-old prejudices.

Skiller – “The World’s Playground” – is now active in more than 125 countries featuring real-time interaction over their cell phone gaming platform.  It is simply genius.

As Skiller’s Nir Orpaz told me, “Games are the best way to unite different people from different nationalities in one common interest.  Everyone likes to play, and it doesn’t matter where you are coming from, what does matter are your gaming skills.”

Nir continued, “By giving people from developing countries the opportunity to interact and play with people from Western countries, we are exposing them to the world of multi-player games.

“We are giving those people – who often do not have access to the internet – the possibility of playing connected games and to interact with people from around the world.  That might be the first time people from developing countries have access to multi-player games,” Nir explained to me.

The young techno-kids who came up with this concept should be in line for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Their business model is based on micro-payments.  “We actually give these social games for free – they are open for anyone’s use.  People can just download the apps and start playing with people from anywhere in the world. If a player wants to buy more game points he can do so by spending real money. People can also send gifts to each other. ”

I still won’t allow my own son to have an X-Box – but I do plan on hooking him up with Skiller.

If all our kids – and maybe even a few of us grownups – built bridges over the cesspool of ancient hatred, we could collectively meet in the middle.  Let the games begin!

See our story “Pace Gaming” in today’s Jerusalem Post.

Originally published in The Daily Kos, May 13, 2010.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens

View all posts by Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce ( writes and speaks on Thought Leaders and Global Citizens. Bringing 26 years management experience within both investment banking and the non-profit sector, Jim has worked for Daiwa Bank, Merrill Lynch, a spin-off of Lazard Freres, and two not-for profit organizations and a foundation he founded. As Founder & CEO of Orphans International Worldwide (, he is working with a strong network of committed professionals to build interfaith, interracial, Internet-connected orphanages in Haiti and Indonesia, and creating a new, family-care model for orphans in Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.