In the Darfur region of western Sudan in Africa, a genocide is occurring. Hundreds of thousands of Darfurians have perished and approximately 2.5 million have been displaced. Each day, more people suffer at the hands of the government-sponsored militias. Each day, more people die of treatable diseases and starvation.
Darfur is Dying, sometimes known as Darfur: Play Your Part or The Darfur Game, is a pioneering effort in the field of “serious games”, i.e. games that instigate or encourage real social changes. In addition to being the thesis project of Susana Ruiz, MFA class of ’06, the game was the winning entry in an mtvU competition to spread awareness about the crisis in Darfur.
Implementing new techniques in “multiplayer online game activism,” Ruiz and the Darfur Team combine several smaller game sequences to give the player a range of experiences. While some of these sequences (such as a running game where the player must hide from armed militants) emphasize the fear and danger of living in Darfur, others (such as the central crop-watering game) focus instead on the constant struggle, the desperation of the villagers’ experience. The player’s attempts to “win” the game are likely to be thwarted by the harsh environmentof Darfur… to be more successful, they must step outside the simulation and take real-world action. With automated processes that let you send a form letter to the President, or support to relief organizations, the Darfur game uses a player’s desire to “win” to get them invested in a real world situation.
The Darfur team is conscious of the difficulties of merging social activism with gameplay: “We are aware of the stakes of such an endeavor – purporting to faithfully convey the real suffering of the Darfuri people – and as such, we do not feel that we have reached a solution, rather that we are immersed in a rigorous work-in-progress.”
If you want to play this game online, please click here.
More information about the thesis work behind this game is available at www.takeactiongames.com