Thursday, June 29, 2006

games with purpose

i'm not a fan of video games.

wait. strike that. i LOVED video games as a child. firing up the commodore 64 and shoving the floppy disk (back when they were really floppy) into the disk drive to play the summer and winter olympics was one of my fave pasttimes. (as a child, i knew the first few seconds of many countries' national anthems.)

but i was talking about contemporary video games. you could say that it isn't that i am not interested in them, but more that i fear getting sucked in. i worry my inner child will strike out and demand all free time be spent in front of my computer, solving a puzzle, building a city, or, my dirty little secret: playing driving games :)

so i stay away. and then i heard a fascinating bit on npr about darfur is dying. darfur is dying is a video game from mtvu (mtv for the college set) that was inspired by a question: can college kids be engaged into activism? wait. video games and activism? yes. as david always tells me, this generation of college kids are most engaged by digital means, specifically stuff on the internet. internet games are pretty sticky with them, too, so mtvu and a few other organizations crafted a contest for students to create an issue-based video game that educates young people about darfur. quite a concept, huh?

it is. i played it today, and when all of my avatars continued to die trying to get water for survival, my first thought was, "this is frustrating. and sad. what am i doing wrong?" and then, of course, it hit me: nothing, sarah. that's the point.

the game has eloquent and difficult messages that tell the tragic and real story of darfur, while offering tips on how one might succeed in the village. you can imagine there isn't much success; the game is based on real stories, and is a powerful narrative about real events. i learned a lot, and was so impressed by the intent and creativity of this project. who knew mtv cares about events other than drunken college kids on spring break?

UPDATE: games are growing up! here's more on this topic: games for change

1 comment:

JR said...

If you liked Darfur is Dying, you might want to check out the UN's game about world hunger - Food Force:

Good luck with the move!
JR (a friend of David's from MD)