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How To Increase Empathy Towards Refugees? Serious Games Might Provide An Answer

January 08,2018 11:14

Videogames and migration: to some, this might sound like an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. Games are fun. Migration, the kind we are used to discuss nowadays, the refugee kind, is anything but. It's people sinking and dying while clumped in small ...


Federico Guerrini , Contributor Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Bury me, my love

Videogames and migration: to some, this might sound like an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. Games are fun. Migration, the kind we are used to discuss nowadays, the refugee kind, is anything but. It's people sinking and dying while clumped in small ships; it's families destroyed, part of them waiting for others to send a sign, telling they are still alive and that their search for a better life didn't end up too soon.
Hard to imagine someone playing with such serious stuff. Except that it happens, in a number of what are usually called, not by chance, "serious games", games that have the purpose not only to entertain, but also to inform, educated, increase one's own understanding of an issue.
Games such as Survival, by Spanish startup Omnium Lab in collaboration with the PeaceApp program of the Alliance of Civilizations of the United Nations. This game for smartphone was developed with the help of young migrants and refugees, who shared their experience, and the challenges they had to face to make it to Europe. Technically speaking, it's quite a simple game; in fact, it was created using Scratch, the free visual programming language for children developed at the MIT Media Lab (trailer below).
So, don't expect anything too sophisticated in terms of graphics, or immersive. Still, it does the trick of showing the main challenges refugees have to face: from smugglers playing with their hopes and dreams, trying to talk them into travelling in dire conditions all crammed up in small rubber boats, to having to deal with the prejudices and stereotypes of the inhabitants of their lands of arrival.
A great tool, especially for teachers, to put their students in the shoes of these people, to try, as the Omnium Lab staff says, "to change the focus, the perspective with which this problem is analyzed in our social contexts".
The game is free to play and is available both for Android and iOS.
Much more sophisticated, and pricey, is Bury me, my love, a serious game which dubs itself as a "reality-inspired interactive fiction designed for mobile phones".

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