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UN video game depicting battle on hunger a success

UN video game depicting the battle against hunger declared great success

Twelve months after its launch, the world’s first humanitarian video game – a United Nations-produced virtual world of planes launching food airdrops over crisis zones and emergency trucks struggling up treacherous roads under rebel threat with emergency supplies to combat hunger – was celebrated today as an unprecedented success story.

“The game continues to be the benchmark in the burgeoning ‘serious games’ niche of the video game industry,” UN World Food Programme (WFP) project manager Justin Roche said of ‘Food Force,’ which now has nearly 4 million players world-wide and is considered cool among the 8-14 year old gaming sector in nearly 200 countries, exceeding all its expectations.

“No other game of its kind has had this much success in terms of number of players and widespread awareness,” he added of the game, which was released as a free internet download on www.food-force.com by WFP in April 2005, to teach young people about the problem of global hunger and what humanitarian organizations do to fight it.

Gamers face a number of realistic challenges to urgently feed thousands of people on the fictitious island of Sheylan, piloting helicopters on reconnaissance missions, negotiating with armed rebels on convoy runs and using food to help rebuild villages. Before each mission, the player is presented with an educational video segment about the reality of WFP work in the field, teaching them how WFP responds to actual food emergencies – where food originates, its nutritional breakdowns and how it is delivered.

The game was recently translated into its fourth language, on track to being as international as WFP itself. After English, Japanese and Italian, it was released in Polish in April. Hungarian, Chinese, French, Greek, Hindi and Arabic are all due to follow soon.

“Pleased as we are with the success of Food Force, we are not resting on our laurels,” WFP’s Director of Communications Neil Gallagher said. “In the lightening fast environment of the gaming industry, Food Force will soon age, so we are already working on a new video game for adults.

“The combination of advanced game technology and the real-life adventures and challenges that are part of WFP’s work, promise an action-packed, sophisticated and intelligent new offering,” he added. “Just as we have sought corporate partners for the multilingual versions of Food Force, we are actively looking for experienced game partners for the new video game.”

WFP plans to launch a blog on the Food Force website, styled as a diary by one of the game’s characters and featuring entries from real-life WFP workers in the field. This will satisfy gamers’ hunger for contact with and information from real humanitarian staff delivering food to poor people all over the world.

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