To call it a "march" was kind of a misnomer — it was basically 50-some avatars standing around and shouting "Peace" in the open chat. It was kind of interesting as a way of publicizing the International Day of Peace. But I have to question what kind of civic involvement this action is engendering.
The event was meant as a way for people around the world to participate in the United Nations’ International Day of Peace. Having people think about ending war and promoting peace during a small portion of their day is certainly admirable and positive. And if they can do it from their computers while at school, home or work, so much the easier, no?
So props to War Child International for organizing this, and Habbo Hotel for hosting.
That said, here’s my feedback on how it actually went down.
Logging into Habbo Hotel, I had to get in a long queue to get access to the packed "Sakura Peace Square" where the peace march was taking place. When I eventually got in after 12 minutes of waiting, I was immediately lost amidst the crowd of nearly identical tiny avatars walking around and chatting incessently.
There was no clear organizer or facilitator of the event. Random avatars were leading call and responses and shout-outs for peace, but it was largely just chaotic text chat. A poll popped up asking me which celebrity recently traveled to Afghanistan on behalf of the International Day of Peace. The answer is Jude Law, so lots of avatars were shouting out "Jude Law!" all over the place.
I did enjoy people’s creative peace shouts:
- "Down with War, Stop the Gore!"
- "Increase the Peace!"
- "More bubbles, less bombs!"
But there was no real dialogue, speeches or information imparted. Not even about what the International Day of Peace or War Child were. No links to websites, no statistics. Just tiny avatars shouting "PEACE!"
I have to wonder what more could have been done with this crowd to give them a richer, more meaningful experience of the peace march. I’m certainly no expert on Habbo Hotel. But given what I understand as
the strengths and limitations of the platform, here are some of my
random thoughts on what could have been organized:
- Peace Pledge: Have people have to commit to some peaceful act during the day in order to get access to the sim. Have them follow up later on the discussion boards reporting on what they did and how effective it was.
- Host Discussions: Have avatars host side-discussions in their personal rooms with others on topics related to peace — child soldiers, landmines, nuclear weapons, small arms, crime, conflict resolution, etc. Or have people divide up by where they live to talk locally with others in their countries / cities.
- Promote Causes / Groups: Provide links to groups and institutions that people can join or support if they want to get more active on a peace effort.
- Playing for Peace: Have a simple game that helps people learn about the various aspects of conflict resolution and peacemaking. I.e. a scavenger hunt, maze, game show, etc.
With a captive and energetic audience of hundreds of avatars, you need to channel that energy toward SOMETHING. Many of the avatars I ran into seemed to be headed to Youtube to watch video’s of themselves or to each other’s private rooms to hang out. Which I see as an opportunity lost.
I also have to wonder if this was the "largest online peace march ever." I’ll be curious to see the numbers, if they get released. I imagine it will be larger than the Second Life peace protest I was involved with in 2007. But probably not as large as the 10,000 virtual Chinese protestors in 2006.