In the “News of the Strange But True” category, the World Food Programme has come out with a videogame called “Food Force” where instead of shooting prostitutes to get a high score you have to feed hungry people. Interspersed throughout the game are videos where you learn about the plight of hungry people around the world, and what the UN and other agencies are doing about it. Not only is the “feed-em-up” game free, it’s also been ported to both the PC and the Mac!
Launched a month and a half ago, already “Food Force” has been downloaded 1 million times by gamers around the world. According to the UN press release:
What makes this achievement highly unusual is that no android attackers are blown away in the game, “Food Force,” released by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in April. Instead, kids race against time to feed thousands of people on the fictitious island of Sheylan, alongside a team of emergency aid workers.
They pilot helicopters while looking out for hungry people, negotiate with armed rebels blocking a food convoy, and use food aid to help rebuild communities. Along the way, they learn about the real world where over 800 million people are plagued by hunger each day.
This bit of “edu-tainment” appears to actually be a decent game, from a few of the initial reviews from Watercoolergames.com and the BBC. I haven’t had a chance to play it yet, but I’m looking forward to busting it out soon.
I am glad to see that the UN is using modern technologies and trends to get out their message in new ways. I have long felt that the video gaming community is a key constituency for the United Nations to try and reach. They tend to be younger males in the developed world with disposable incomes, although video gaming is more and more entering the mainstream.
So far the UN’s forays into popular culture have been limited to movies, notably “Beyond Borders” starring Angelina Jolie and Clive Owen. Sure the UN sponsors classical music concerts and art exhibitions all the time. But these aren’t going to reach teenagers or 20-somethings. Then again I cringe at the thought of a rap song about sustainable development.
I have an idea for a video game called “UN negotiations” where you play a civil society activist navigating the maze of the United Nations, chased by angry government delegates, trying to reach the 38th floor with your CS declaration. Could be a big hit! Any game developers out there, please feel free to contact me.
“Food Force” weighs in at a hefty 200 Meg download, BTW, for those who are bandwidth-challenged.