Editors' Choice: Computer role playing game from Japan

27 Oct 2014
Author: Robert Precht

A scene from the lay judge simulator shows a defendant in court. The subtitles suggest what a panel member may be deliberating, such as 'I must think carefully because my decisions can change his life.' | OSAKA BAR ASSOCIATION

In 2009 Japan introduced a revolution in its courts. After 60 years of having judges decide criminal cases and sentences the country adopted a new system of judicial decision making, called saiban-in.  In a nutshell, the saiban-in system involves a "mixed jury" of judges and randomly selected lay citizens jointly deciding cases. At the time of its introduction there were fears that Japanese citizens would never accept their new duties and would be unable to exercise independent judgment when judges were present. To help citizens understand their new role the Osaka Bar Association created an interactive video game to help teach ordinary citizens basic legal principles and tips for evaluating evidence and collaborating on a verdict. The Japan Times has published a fascinating article on the new game. 

The larger takeaway: computer role playing games can help potential participants in the legal system such as jurors. It can also help the public empathize with victims of discrimination or other injustices. As such, computer games can be powerful public interest projects.