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.



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