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Mitigating Harm in Design: Extremism and the Gamification of Violence

Alex Newhouse  (Deputy Director, Center on Terrorism, Extremism & Counterterrorism)

Rachel Kowert  (Research Director, Take This)

Location: Room 207, South Hall

Date: Friday, March 24

Time: 10:00 am - 11:00 am

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core Pass, Summits Pass, Expo Pass, Audio Pass, Independent Games Summit Pass, Friday Only Expo Pass

Topic: Advocacy

Format: Lecture

Vault Recording: Video

Audience Level: All

Historically, discussion around video game content has been disproportionately driven by fears that exposure to extreme content directly contributes to extreme out-of-game behavior. While direct links between violent game content and violent behavior do not exist in the research literature, this line of dialogue has led to a lack of nuanced understanding of how content may nonetheless impact real-world extreme behavior in indirect but significant ways.

In this talk, Alex Newhouse and Rachel Kowert will reopen discussions about the influence of extreme game content and share how community factors and design elements in games can serve as inspiration and motivation for extremist behaviors by reinforcing pre-existing beliefs and serving as a center point for radicalization.

Examples of how video game content has inspired real-world violence will be given to illustrate these points, including the Charleston church attack of 2015, the Christchurch mosque attack of 2019, and the Buffalo supermarket attack of 2022, as each of these events demonstrated clear markers of inspiration from digital game spaces. The talk will conclude with solutions, including practical tools for design.


Attendees will learn how—while violent content in games is not linked to real-world violence—narratives, aesthetics, and mechanics are nonetheless exploited by violent extremists. This talk will provide evidence of the gamification of violence and the use of games as assets of extremism, and it will offer solutions for game developers and designers.

Intended Audience

This is for studio leadership; trust and safety, management, marketing, branding and PR leaders; data analysts; narrative designers; and thought leaders throughout the industry. No prerequisite knowledge is needed.