Second Life Protest against US intervention in Iran
Don't stand so close to me: Thoughts on gendered behavior in virtual worlds

The Millennium Development Games

Food Force

I got an interesting email the other day from Amil Husain of the UN Millennium Campaign regarding a new series of educational games they wish to produce to run on Negroponte's $100 laptop:

My agency at the United Nations is entering into a partnership with the NGO, One Laptop Per Child who have produced a really amazing $100 laptop for children 6-16... Our unit wishes to produce entertaining game modules for the laptop on the Millennium Development Goals (8 Goals agreed to by every country in the world in 2000 which if achieved would end extreme poverty by 2015). I was looking for assistance finding game developers who have experience translating difficult development issues into entertaining  games.

As much as I support the vision of the Millennium Goals as political mobilizing tools, I have to admit I have a hard time imagining what kinds of "entertaining game modules" on the Millennium Goals could possibly be created.  But here are some suggestions...

For those who don't know, these are the Millennium Development Goals:

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger  
  2. Achieve universal primary education  
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women  
  4. Reduce child mortality  
  5. Improve maternal health  
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases  
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability  
  8. Develop a global partnership for development

They are a short, easily understood list of "must do's" if the world is to have any impact on poverty and suffering on the planet.  Let's translate these into some possible game modules.

  • simDevelopment  (A Resource Management Game) : The player takes the role of a UN country development coordinator shuffling a very limited set of human, material and natural resources in order to get food, shelter and jobs to people before they perish.  You start off running Mexico and advance from there to Laos, then Kazakstan and finally Sudan.
  • Lara Croft the Entrepreneur (Third Person Seller): You control Lara Croft, a village woman in a poor country attempting to provide for her family in a patriarchal society that doesn't value her intelligence or strength.  She uses her wits, tireless energy and enormous breasts to build a successful business, while also supporting her family.
  • City of Humanitarian Aid Workers (MMORPG): In this online game, you choose a super-humanitarian power like "skilled negotiator with corrupt officials," "ability to make a little go a long way," and "strength of unquenchable optimism."  Then you don the uniform of UNICEF, the Red Cross, Doctors without Borders or the Peace Corps (variations on jeans and logo'ed tee-shirts).  Gamers face hordes of homeless refugees, hungry street urchins, and armed militias, armed with MREs, tents, and good intent.
  • Leisure Suit Larry 2007 (First Person Playa): Basically the same game as the original except every time Larry has unprotected sex he contracts a horrible disease. 

I don't mean to disparage the effort.  But honestly I have a hard time thinking seriously of what an entertaining educational game based around the MDGs might look like.

comments powered by Disqus