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Youth, AIDS… and making a game about it November 2, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in Digital content.
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Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund, has announced the launch of a computer game targeted at young people, and aimed at helping them make better choices to combat diseases like AIDS. This game is currently available in English and Swahili
versions at unicef.org/voy/explore/aids/explore_1360.html.

Announced this week, Unicef called it the “first interactive feature in Swahili today, an online game that empowers young people to make good life choices about and prevent HIV.”

In its Swahili version, the game is called Ungefanyaje (‘What would you do?’) It takes the player through a series of relationship-based scenarios that emphasize the importance of HIV-prevention and testing.

“Translating the game into Swahili makes it accessible to East African adolescents and young people,” Voices of Youth coordinator Amber Oliver was quoted saying.

Voices of Youth, or VOY is a decade-old initiative focused on exploring the educational and community building potential of the internet.

Through web boards, interactive quizzes, youth leadership profiles, live chats and more, Voices of Youth says it “provides thousands of young people from over 180 countries with an opportunity to self-inform, engage in lively debate, and partner — with their peers and decision makers — to create a world fit for children.”

Prevention is considered essential to half the spread of HIV/AIDS. But an alarming 80 per cent of all young people still don’t know how to protect themselves from the virus.

It is estimated that of the 2.3 million children under 15 living with HIV, two million are in sub-Saharan Africa. Hence reaching out to youth is seen as crucial.

Unicef, some 60 years old, has been working in 156 countries and territories “to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.” It is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

Some early responses to the game however commented on the need to use a form of Swahili comprehendible across the region, and the need to make the game work on mobile phones.

Computer games have also been called ‘edutainment’ because of their mix of education and entertainment.

The term “serious game” came into wide use with the Serious Games Initiative in 2002, games were being developed for non-entertainment purposes.

This initiative was launched to encourage the development of games that address policy and management issues. In 2004, another initiative called Games for Change focussed on social issues and social change, while Games for Health addresses health care applications.

Games like 3rd World Farmer give the player a feel of the hardships facing farmers in the poor world. The Adventures of Josie True is an online educational game for girls, targeting fifth grade science and math curricular areas.

Darfur is Dying is an online game that simulates life in a Darfur refugee camp. Food Force is humanitarian video game. The UN‘s World Food Programme designed this virtual world of food airdrops over crisis zones and trucks struggling up difficult roads under rebel threat with emergency food supplies.

For a fascinating entry, see the Wikipedia, loads of useful links [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serious_game]

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