Do-Gooder Games

3 minute read
Hillary Batchelder

Call them playstations with a higher purpose. Activist video games–which use whiz-bang formats to address real-world issues–are scoring high with both kids and teachers. Given the success of the U.N.’s aid-relief game Food Force (with more than 4 million downloads in 15 months) and the MTV-affiliated Darfur Is Dying (more than 800,000 players since April), techno do-gooders are proliferating, and gamers are saving the world.


Created by University of Denver students, this game shows the plight of migrant farmworkers as fruit-picking players encounter unfair bosses and bad harvests. MTV’s college network, will launch the free game in October.


Try your hand at peace in the Middle East. In May Carnegie Mellon students won the University of Southern California’s Public Diplomacy Contest for PeaceMaker, which challenges you to create a stable resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The game–where players pick which of the two countries they want to run–will be available for download at by year’s end, for a price that has yet to be determined.


Gandhi inspired the name of this game, which is backed by the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict and lets players be the chief strategists of nonviolent movements. To fund the group’s mission, charges $19.95 a game.


The goal of this free grass-roots game is to turn players into real-life “door knockers” who know plenty of techniques to help organize their community. In the past two months, these open-source materials have been used to train activists from more than 20 organizations in California. Though a beta version is now available, the game will officially launch next month at and a Spanish version is scheduled for 2007.


A gamer playing the role of a U.N. commander during the Rwandan genocide is confronted with grim trade-offs, such as choosing whether to fax the U.N. or save the Prime Minister. Licensed to schools, the game has been incorporated into thousands of curriculums in Canada, Britain and South Africa, and will hit the U.S. this fall. Next up from Resolve Labs: Pax Prosecutor, about the indictment of Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes.


Talk about extracurricular activity. As part of their after-school program, 24 students at New York City’s South Shore High came up with-and designed-this game, which is named after the way Haiti is pronounced in Creole. The free game, which looks at poverty in the island nation, and will be available for download at in September, almost makes going back to school seem fun.

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