Since the Christchurch attack in 2019, it is explored how games, gaming spaces, gamification, and violent extremism are potentially linked and how gaming-related content may influence digital radicalization processes. However, both the theoretical and empirical basis to understand this influence are underdeveloped. This blog post adds to the theoretical foundation of a “gamification of radicalization” by presenting five ideal user types and their potential interaction with gamified extremist content.
While Harry Potter and his friends could use their magic abilities to defend the world against the dark arts, efforts against radicalization and extremism in the real world must rely on non-magic skills, most prominently (strategic) communications. Narrative campaigns challenging extremist ideas and propagating positive, alternative visions are an increasingly important tool in the efforts to prevent and counter radicalization. So far, however, such campaigns have largely omitted fictional elements, despite ample evidence that fictitious stories hold considerable persuasive power and have inherent benefits that could support narrative efforts against extremism.
In the wake of the attacks in Christchurch, El Paso and Halle, the so-called ‘gamification of terror’ has made headlines and sparked academic interest in the potential role of gamification in radicalisation processes. Most recently, the Radicalization Awareness Network (RAN) has discussed both videogames and gamification as potential facilitating factors of radicalisation in the EU. This blog article is based on the new RAN Paper “The Gamification of Violent Extremism & Lessons for P/CVE”.
Contrary to popular opinion, extremist communication is not simply based on hatred and calls for violence. While beheading videos or livestreamed shootings may generate attention, displays of violence alone are an insufficient basis for an extremist ideology and claims of legitimacy. Utopian narratives – visions for the perfect society – are an indispensable element of propaganda efforts. Without detailing what one is fighting for, an essential part would be missing from the web of extremist ideological communication. While the last years have seen an increase in narrative campaigns designed to delegitimize extremist ideologies and provide alternative worldviews, pro-democracy narratives struggle with responding to the utopian visions propagated by extremist actors.