Working Paper 1/2021: The Role of Gamification in Radicalization Processes


The livestreaming of attacks, the use of Call of Duty footage in propaganda videos, the modification of popular video games to support extremist worldviews, and the development of games and playful apps by extremist organizations have all contributed to an increasing focus on the so-called ‘gamification of terror’. Since the livestreamed attack in Christchurch and the realization that subsequent perpetrators in Pittsburgh, El Paso and Halle not only copied the mode and style of attack but were embedded in and sought to appeal to similar online communities, in which gamified language and references to gaming were part of the subcultural practice, journalists, academics, and practitioners have begun to analyze the role games and gamified applications may play in radicalization processes. Understandably, as the Christchurch shooting has taken place less than two years ago, the analysis into the potential role of gamification in radicalization processes has only just begun and much confusion persists on both terminology and the exact mechanisms by which gamification may influence extremist thought and action. The fact that gamification itself is a fairly new concept, which has only been seriously researched for around ten years, complicates matters further. A large part of this report is therefore dedicated to organizing the current state of knowledge and to provide readers with a baseline of knowledge on gamification in extremist contexts. After a discussion on gamification as such and how it may or may not be differentiated from other gaming appeals, an overview of the current evidence of gamified radicalization processes is provided. Then, research findings on the psychological mechanisms of gamification are applied to the issue of radicalization. Lastly, the report flashlights some preliminary possibilities of applying gamification to preventing and/or countering extremism (P/CVE). Readers must be aware that this final part of the report lacks robust empirical grounding and is not meant to be taken as evidence of what should or should not be done. Rather, it is meant as an invitation to explore and discuss the implications of gamification for P/CVE.

Find the whole working paper here.