Refugees, Conflict, and Food Distributions: Learning through Gameing

  • Posted on: 8 November 2007
  • By: Bryan Schaaf
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I played too many video games as a child.   This was before the age of the X-Box, Playstation, or the Wii.  My first system was a VIC 20 and then a Commodore 64.  Clearly, I am dating myself!  Like most kids, I didnt know anything about international development or humanitarian issues.  But video games might have been a good way to raise my awareness and get me thinking. 

 

This is important as the policy and programmatic decisions that the U.S. government makes concerning support for humanitarian programs has worldwide implications.  We should be paying attention.

 

I bring this up because there are a number of really interesting online games intended to entertain and teach youth at the same time.  The latest I have seen, "Against All Odds",  puts the player in the position of an asylum seeker fleeing from human rights abuses in a conflict affected country.  No country is immune from displacement, whether by natural disaster as by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans or by the flooding in Southern Haiti or because of conflict as in Iraq and Sri Lanka.  

 

What is novel about this game is not only that it illustrates the (often life threatening) challenges faced in reaching another country, but it also illustrates challenges in integrating within another country and starting a new life.  The game is divided into segments, each of which are linked to lesson plans for teachers.  In this way, the game can be played in a classroom setting.

 

The second game, "Darfur is Dying", first puts one in the position of a Darfuri refugee in Chad.  The first task of the game is to forage for water, a task which places women at risk of sexual assault on a daily basis.  Later the player is introduced to the management of a refugee camp that could become (and does) a janjawid target.

 

The third game "Food Force" illustrates the World Food Programme's logistical challenges in getting food to hungry, and often conflicted affected, populations throughout the world.  Where there is malnutrition, health will be poor.  Where this is hunger, there will be instability.  This game allows the user to try his or her hand at organizing food deployments and distributions.

 

These games are linked to blogs, web learning resources, partner organizations, and teaching materials.  All are available in several languages.  If you have children, consider playing one of these games with them.  If you are a teacher, this could be an excellent way to get your students thinking about humanitarian issues.  It may be an excellent way to plant a seed.

 

Know of any other awareness raising games? We'd love to hear about them.

 

Bryan

Comments

Below is a game revolving around immigration to the United States: http://www.icedgame.com/

Definitely food for thought! I am a high school English and French teacher who has traveled to Haiti on an educational mission trip. My students in the Midwest expressed lots of interest in the economic and political obstacles their counterparts in Haiti face. Over the years I have conducted service learning units with schools in Haiti and South Africa in conjunction with novels that my students have read. Gaming is absolutely unfamiliar to me, but my students of course are fluent in it. I have been looking for ways to make my students' learning real. I will check out "Darfur is Dying" and "Food Force." Thank you for the suggestion.

The characters in the game speak Sheng, a blend of English and Swahili popular among urban youth
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NAIROBI, 30 July 2009 (PlusNews) - At the community centre in Mukuru, a slum in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, teenagers spend hours engrossed in a video game, but they are not battling other-worldly forces with super-human weapons; instead, they are finding their way through a familiar-looking city, trying to negotiate real-life situations and learn how to avoid HIV infection.
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"Pamoja Mtaani", Swahili for "Together in the Hood", is the first multi-player PC video game to try to teach young people how to avoid HIV infection. Players assume the identity of one of five characters who find themselves car-jacked in a matatu (minibus taxi) and attempt to recover their stolen goods and save an injured woman. Through a series of sub-plots, the players are put into positions where the decisions they make can put them at risk of contracting or preventing HIV infection.
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"You are able to relate to the behaviour of any one of the characters in the video game and you are able to discard bad behaviour … [such as] using drugs because you can actually see drug abuse leads that particular character into acquiring HIV due to recklessness," said Perpetua Nduku, one of the young people at the Mukuru community centre, which is visited by about 35 teens a day - 50 a day at the weekend.
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The game targets young people aged between 15 and 19 and focuses on five key behaviours that can reduce HIV infections among youth: delaying the onset of sexual activity, abstinence, avoiding multiple sex partners, correct and consistent condom use, and uptake of voluntary counselling and testing services.
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Local hip-hop artists provide the authentically local, urban soundtrack, and the characters in the game speak Sheng, a mix of Swahili and English commonly used by urban youth.
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An in-your-face HIV prevention campaign
"I can now negotiate condom use with my boyfriend and I can tell any other girl who has never been here how to do it because the language used [in the video game] is the same language I would normally use with my boyfriend or with any other person," said 20-year-old Grace Wangeci.
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The game was developed by Warner Bros Entertainment in partnership with the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria recently gave Warner Bros Entertainment a business excellence award for Pamoja Mtaani.
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Launched in December 2008, the game is available at four sites in Nairobi; following a review in June 2009, PEPFAR and its local partners now plan to extend the game around the capital and country-wide.
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Job Akuno, technical adviser for comprehensive prevention programmes at Hope Worldwide Kenya, which runs the community centre in Mukuru, says young people in the area have embraced the game and learned from it, underlining the need to find more engaging ways to inform the youth about HIV.
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"Using the video games provides a platform for reaching out to the youth in a creative way and which is enjoyable to them," he said, adding that the game's features had broader messages, such as teaching young women to stand up for their rights and improve their self-esteem.
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Kenya's national HIV/AIDS strategy considers youth aged between 15 and 24 "most-at-risk"; young women have an HIV prevalence of 6.1 percent, four times higher than their male counterparts. Studies have shown that although knowledge of HIV/AIDS among the youth is high, many young people continue to engage in risky behaviour, such as having multiple sexual partners and inconsistent condom use.

IRIN
12/28/2010
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A new video game being launched by the United Nations aims to provide young people with accurate and reliable information about HIV prevention, while educating, entertaining and promoting healthy behaviour. The computer game “Fast Car: Travelling Safely around the World,” launched by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), targets young people over the age of 16 and is available in English, French and Russian. While racing on circuits on five different continents and virtually visiting some of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites, players will receive information on existing prevention practices, treatment and care for HIV and AIDS. “The importance of the game consists in providing young people with information materials on HIV and AIDS that can be widely distributed through communication channels in order to help them to gain an accurate understanding of these issues and preventive practices,” the Paris-based agency stated in a news release.
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UNESCO notes that HIV-related issues can be a difficult topic of conversation, both for children and adults. “Children may worry about parents’ disapproval and have fears about the risk of becoming infected with HIV,” says the agency. “Parents,” it adds,” are often shy, lack accurate information about HIV and AIDS, or do not have sufficient skills to speak about prevention with their children, and teachers frequently assume that parents will talk with children at home.” Empowering young people to protect themselves from HIV is one of the priority areas of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), which notes that young people aged 15 to 24 account for two out of every five new HIV infections globally. This means worldwide almost 3,500 young people are infected with HIV every day. Most young people still do not have access to the information, skills, services or social support required to enable them to prevent HIV infection, according to UNAIDS

6/21/2011
By Nita Bhalla
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The world may have forgotten the massive floods that inundated Pakistan almost a year ago, but a game application ('app') is trying to keep up awareness of the crisis among an untapped group of people – Facebook and Smartphone users. "Relief Copter" is an effort by a small, Islamabad-based media firm to highlight the plight of survivors of last year's disaster, which decimated villages from the far north to the deep south and disrupted the lives of over 18 million people. The game – featuring a relief helicopter that drops crates of aid items which must be navigated to various points – is available free on Nokia, iphone and social networking site Facebook, and has generated tens of thousands of downloads since its launch in October. But the app goes one step further. As well as a slideshow, after the completion of each level there is a photograph and a "flood fact" about the disaster, which is seen as one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent times – bigger than the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in terms of displacement, crop and infrastructure damage, livelihood loss and recovery needs.
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"When we were designing the app, it seemed like the floods had completely washed away the world's conscience, no one seemed to take notice," said Mohsin Afzal, CEO of Werplay, developers of the game. "You have a captive audience that is engaged, and you can use games as a medium to raise awareness and funds for a good cause. For me, it was a no-brainer," he told AlertNet by phone from Islamabad. The impact of the floods – which submerged one fifth of the country, left 11 million homeless, killed nearly 2,000 and destroyed millions of acres of crops – still lingers almost a year on, aid workers say. United Nations officials say while all the displaced have returned home or resettled elsewhere, many do not have the means to rebuild their destroyed homes or restart their livelihoods.
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Donor funding has been slow for recovery needs and around 30 percent of the almost $2 billion appealed for by the U.N. and Pakistan government has not been met. Aid workers say the lack of funding, as in many disasters, is down to donor fatigue, the global financial crisis and a lack of awareness about the challenges faced by survivors. Afzal, 28, who returned to Pakistan last July after completing an MBA at Berkeley, agrees. "When the Haiti quake hit, and it was all over the news in America, there was so much coverage and outpouring of sympathy and aid," he said. "In complete contrast, practically no one in America knows about Pakistan floods." Together with a few of his friends, Azfal founded Werplay and now leads a young, dynamic team of 15, including a 17-year-old who is behind the development of the app's facebook version of "Relief Copter".
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The app has hit 90,000 downloads on the Nokia Ovi store, 900 on the iphone's app store and 600 people play the facebook version, said Afzal, adding that downloads have been made from over 100 countries – most from neighbouring India. "The mainstream media has nearly forgotten about the recent floods in Pakistan, although scores of people are still struggling with the aftermath of this terrible disaster," said one reviewer on the iphone app store. "Downloading this app is a direct and fulfilling way to show that you still care." But while "Relief Copter" may have generated awareness, the main intention of Afzal and his team – to raise funds from the purchase of the game – has failed. The iphone version had only generated around $50 before Werplay decided to make it a free app.
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"What we wanted to accomplish with Relief Copter didn't happen in terms of the funds that we wanted to raise," he said. "App discovery is a big issue and it's so easy for our small game to get lost in the millions of apps out there ... we didn't have much of a marketing budget and few were willing to support us with promotion, including the aid agencies." Afzal said he approached relief groups working on flood relief in Pakistan such as Oxfam, Save the Children, the U.N. agency for children (UNICEF) and the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), but with no luck. "I still think this kind of fund raising can work. People easily spend 99 cents on an app, so why not provide them with an opportunity to spend that 99 cents on something that does good. They are going to get more value out of it," he said. "We were too small to do it on our own, without support, but it can work,” he added. “In the end, we hope we have at least educated people about the floods."

Exciting new Social Action Game based on the book by Pulitzer-Prize Winning authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn Production has begun on a Facebook social action game based on Half the Sky, the bestselling book by Pulitzer Prize-winner writers Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Social games leader Zynga announced that it will contribute “significant staff time” to the production team working on the game, which is part of an ambitious transmedia project that includes a four-hour PBS miniseries. Developed by Frima Studio, the Half the Sky Facebook game is executive produced by Games for Change, the leading global advocate for supporting and making games for social good, which had a sneak-peak of Half the Sky for attendees of its recent Games for Change Festival (June 18-20). Also serving as executive producer is Maro Chermayeff, president of Show of Force, the award-winning production company producing the PBS miniseries.
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Half the Sky, the bestselling 2009 book by Kristof and WuDunn, sparked a global movement to address “the central moral challenge of our time” – ending the oppression of women and girls worldwide. A multimillion-dollar transmedia project involving over 30 NGO partners is currently underway to raise awareness and promote real-world action. Projects in the pipeline include a primetime, four-hour miniseries to air on PBS on October 1-2, a Facebook social action game, mobile games in India and Africa, websites, educational materials and more. The Facebook game has major support from the Ford Foundation, along with support from the UN Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. “The mission of Zynga.org is to help make the world a better place through games,” said Ken Weber, Zynga.org’s Executive Director.” Zynga’s employees are eager to leverage social games for good, and we are honored to be collaborating with Games for Change and Frima on this important initiative.” “Zynga’s role in bringing this game to life is particularly special to us,” said Half the Sky authors Kristof and WuDunn. “Using a game to potentially reach great numbers of people helps send a message not only that there are challenges women face around the world, but also that they bring great spirit and joy to their communities when they can live safe, normal lives.”
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About Frima Studio: Frima is Canada’s leading independent game developer. Since 2003, the company has been developing world-class media including virtual worlds, social and web based games, console titles and mobile apps. Their services also include the animation and special effects expertise of Frima FX as well as the concept art development of Volta. In addition to working with world-renowned clients, Frima develops successful, original IP titles such as A Space Shooter for Free! and Zombie Tycoon. With over 350 artists and programmers to develop its products, Frima produces high-caliber products that are as remarkably outstanding artistically as they are technically. Visit www.frimastudio.com
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About Zynga.org: Zynga.org’s mission is to facilitate and promote the use of social games for positive social impact on global scale. To date, Zynga.org has inspired players of Zynga games to contribute over $12 million to leading national and international NGOs working to meet basic human needs and improve lives. Zynga.org works closely with Zynga, the world’s leader in social games, and with various nonprofit partners, including Save the Children, Direct Relief International, World Food Programme, and Games for Change. Visit Zynga.org at www.facebook.com/zynga.org

New York Times
By ELIZABETH JENSEN
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Social cause gaming, or the use of games to promote awareness of societal problems, has been growing since pioneer online projects like Food Force, the United Nations World Food Program’s 2005 game about confronting famine, and Darfur Is Dying, MTV’s 2006 offering in which players navigate the terrors of a Sudanese refugee camp. Subsequent games have raised awareness of subjects like H.I.V., sex trafficking and political conflicts, among others. On March 4, a new game on Facebook, inspired by the book “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” will be introduced, with a focus on raising awareness of issues like female genital mutilation and child prostitution. Half the Sky Movement: The Game, more than three years in the making, is one of the most ambitious efforts yet to entice a mass audience to social media games with the goal of social change. It is a concept, however, that even its supporters say is largely untested. The game seeks to engage new audiences not reached by the 2009 book, written by the married team of Nicholas D. Kristof, a columnist for The New York Times, and Sheryl WuDunn, a former Times journalist.
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A spinoff four-hour documentary was broadcast on PBS in October, with a four-hour sequel coming in fall 2014. Even more directly than possible with the book and television program, the game’s producers hope to actively involve the public. The central character, an Indian woman named Radhika, faces various challenges with the assistance of players, who can help out with donations of virtual goods, for example. The players can then make equivalent real-world donations to seven nonprofit organizations woven into the game. Ten dollars, for example, will help buy a goat for Heifer International; $20 will help support United Nations Foundation immunization efforts. To further engage players, those who reach predesignated levels unlock donations from Johnson & Johnson and Pearson, which have each contributed $250,000 to buy real-world operations from the Fistula Foundation and books for Room to Read, respectively. If the Half the Sky game takes off and the money is claimed quickly, the producers hope other sponsors will step in, said Michelle Byrd, co-president of Games for Change, a nonprofit that promotes the creation of so-called social impact games and is the game’s executive producer, along with Show of Force Productions. Asi Burak, also co-president of Games for Change, said the hope is to draw two million to five million players, persuading 5 percent or more to donate. Players can play at no charge, but they will make faster progress through donations.
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Those usage figures would put the game in the top rungs of social cause gaming. The genre is still new enough that “I think it’s an open question as to whether or not and to what degree people want to play a game that’s focused on a social issue,” said Ken Weber, executive director of Zynga.org, the nonprofit arm of Zynga, the company behind Facebook’s FarmVille game. Zynga, which has raised $15 million for about 50 causes like Japanese earthquake relief through FarmVille, signed on to support the Half the Sky game, helping in its development and promotion. Zynga felt the game had “a fighting chance,” Mr. Weber said, because the content was compelling, there was already an established book and television property, financing was in hand — producers have raised $1 million — and Games for Change had hired “a commercial-grade developer,” the Canadian company Frima Studio of Quebec City. Other supporters include the Ford, Rockefeller and United Nations foundations; Intel; and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Half the Sky game starts out simply, as Radhika ponders how to afford a doctor visit for her sick daughter (the answer is to harvest mangoes, which players do for her). Each step requires players to answer a question — for example, should Radhika ask her husband for help or stay silent? Neither answer is wrong, but each takes players on a different route.
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As her empowerment grows, Radhika moves across the globe to Kenya, Vietnam and Afghanistan. But many of the game choices get progressively darker. One leads to a mother living and her baby dying. Still, some of the game’s nonprofit partners have pushed for even more verisimilitude, Ms. Byrd and Mr. Burak said, questioning, for one, why Radhika can read when many women in her situation would be illiterate. Finding that balance — how much to simplify complicated issues, how much fun to include and how much to focus on positive solutions versus grave challenges — has consumed much of the development process, the producers said. “It’ll be a very interesting test as to what people’s thresholds are,” said Mr. Weber, of Zynga. Players who reach the final level learn about sex trafficking in the United States and can donate to an organization in New York called GEMS, or Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, which helps young women leave the commercial sex industry. Rachel Lloyd, the organization’s founder, said that games were “a brave new world for us, too. We’re watching and seeing how this works, if people really do engage in the way that we’d like them to.” A version of this article appeared in print on February 18, 2013, on page B5 of the New York edition with the headline: A Game Aims to Draw Attention to Women’s Issues.

By Charles NESLY and Frédéric BERTRAND,
French Red Cross
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As part of a large program on Disaster Risk Reduction in Haiti, with funds from the European Commission’s Disaster Preparedness Programme (DIPECHO)), the French Red Cross (FRC) in partnership with the Haitian Red Cross aims at increasing community resilience and reducing their vulnerabilities in the Artibonite region. This project includes different activities: Community Intervention Teams capacity building, community micro projects to mitigate disasters, mass and door-to-door sensitizations, simulation exercises, establishment or improvement of local early-warning systems and contingency-planning. In the framework of this programme, similar objectives are also developed by the Spanish Red Cross in Leogane (West Region), the German Red Cross in Les Nippes and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) in Port-au-Prince. “Zòn sa konn abitye gen siklòn” (“this area is regularly hit by cyclones”), explained Juveline, a little girl from La Porte, a locality of Grande Saline in Haiti. Indeed, the region of Lower-Artibonite is particularly exposed to hurricanes and floods. In 2012, the Isaac tropical storm caused a lot of damage in this area, entailing the destruction of many houses and schools.
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Juveline, along with 60 other children and 40 additional youth and adults, has decided to take part in an educational game in order to improve her knowledge on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and to reinforce her preparedness capacity. “Li amizan pou m’aprann, li pale de dife, dezas ak anpil lot bagay” (“this is a fun way of learning about fire, disasters and many other things”), said the little girl after having played the risk land game (“Tè Malè” in Haitian Creole). This educational game teaches children and parents on how to behave in case of a natural disaster and how to mitigate risks. Composed of 65 boxes, and based on the snake and ladders game, the game tackles topics such as flooding, deforestation, Emergency Family Plan, solidarity during emergencies and the like which is adapted to the Haitian context. For instance, the box 13 informs that the community contributes to deforestation. The player must therefore move back a few squares. After the game ended, children and parents expressed their satisfaction and enthusiasm at the knowledge they gained on disaster preparedness and mitigation, thanking the organizers of the activity. “I am happy as I learned a lot of things today”, stated Juveline. Educating children on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) is key to making communities better prepared and more resilient to future shocks, thus ensuring that DRR plays its integrated role in sustainable development.

By Federico Guerrini 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/federicoguerrini/2018/01/07/how-to-increase...

Forbes

Videogames and migration: to some, this might sound like an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. Games are fun. Migration, the kind we are used to discuss nowadays, the refugee kind, is anything but. It's people sinking and dying while clumped in small ships; it's families destroyed, part of them waiting for others to send a sign, telling they are still alive and that their search for a better life didn't end up too soon. Hard to imagine someone playing with such serious stuff. Except that it happens, in a number of what are usually called, not by chance, "serious games", games that have the purpose not only to entertain, but also to inform, educated, increase one's own understanding of an issue.

Games such as Survival, by Spanish startup Omnium Lab in collaboration with the PeaceApp program of the Alliance of Civilizations of the United Nations. This game for smartphone was developed with the help of young migrants and refugees, who shared their experience, and the challenges they had to face to make it to Europe. Technically speaking, it's quite a simple game; in fact, it was created using Scratch, the free visual programming language for children developed at the MIT Media Lab (trailer below).

So, don't expect anything too sophisticated in terms of graphics, or immersive. Still, it does the trick of showing the main challenges refugees have to face: from smugglers playing with their hopes and dreams, trying to talk them into travelling in dire conditions all crammed up in small rubber boats, to having to deal with the prejudices and stereotypes of the inhabitants of their lands of arrival.

A great tool, especially for teachers, to put their students in the shoes of these people, to try, as the Omnium Lab staff says, "to change the focus, the perspective with which this problem is analyzed in our social contexts".

 

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