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Ivan Marovic: A Force More Powerful

Ivan Marovic is a young Serbian activist, a key figure in the Otpor (“Resistance”) movement. The movement was a decentralized student movement – there was some coordination from Belgrade, but each group had the authority to work on their own. They were united by tactics, iconography (a black fist on a white background) and a great sense of humor.

The movement demonstrated their power in opposing Milosevic in the 2000 elections – by the time the election took place, it was quite obvious that Milosevic would lose to opposition leader Zoran Dindic. The real question was whether or not Milosevic would step down. (And, of course, he didn’t.) So the movement took the next step, and organized to actually remove Milosevic from power.

(We get to see a great video of activists politely, but firmly, confronting police before pushing trucks out of the road to eliminate a roadblock and drive to Belgrade.)

And hundreds of thousands of activists eventually organized a nonviolent takeover of Parliament, forcing Milosevic out of power and eventually into trial at The Hague.

In some ways, this was just the beginning for Otpor – Kumara, a movement in Georgia that took down Shevrednadze, used the same symbolism and the same tactics as Otpor. And the Orange Revolution in Ukraine used many of the same tactics, and the movements were in close contact.

Ivan is less interested in writing another book about non-violent organizing or making another video – instead, he’s helping build a game, called “A Force More Powerful”. It’s a simulation game developed with Breakaway Games. It looks a little like Sim City or Civilization, but is focused on teaching organizers the tactics of non-violent resistance.

The game is in beta testing now and is planned for launch in January, and it looks really, really fun. As a player, you control characters, groups and movements – you build them into coalitions, send them out to carry out tactics and see the results from the government. Ivan walks us through a graffiti campaign, some street rallies and a benefit rock concert that finally brings down the game government.

More exciting, the game is highly editable – you can load a real world map into it, so if you wanted to model Iraq, as Castronova suggests, you could.

It turns out that several of the Serbian activists involved with Otpor were serious gamers – one woman was one of the first players in World of Warcraft; Ivan was a serious strategy gamer. It will be fascinating to see whether their passion for gaming and for social justice can come together and make a game that people actually will play and learn from.

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