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Big Choices on a Small Screen: Can Mobile Games Really Spark Change?

by Portal Web Editor last modified Jan 14, 2013 10:28 AM
Contributors: Kara E. Tureski
USAID
Meet Anu, a 13-year-old girl who lives with her mother, father and brother, Binod, in rural India. Like many teenagers, Anu will be barraged with a series of choices such as whether to stay in school or to leave in order to help her family; whether to marry before completing her education; whether she and her husband should use family planning; and when they should start their family. All of the decisions will impact Anu and her family’s future. The only difference between Anu and millions of other teenagers in the developing world is that she is made of bits and bytes instead of flesh and blood. She represents a new push by USAID and the international development community to parlay the rapid expansion of mobile devices—and the mobile games that keep their users engaged—into a resource for development.

Original Source

“Family Choices”—Anu’s milieu—was developed as part of the USAID-supported Half the Sky Movement, a multi-donor, multimedia platform developed by film and game producers Show of Force and Games for Change, in collaboration with Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, the Pulitzer Prize-winning authors of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.

USAID supports the initiative through the C-Change project with a $1.4 million investment that has produced 18 short education and advocacy videos for use in India, Liberia, Somaliland and East Africa, and three hand-held mobile games developed for India and East Africa on topics as diverse as family planning and reproductive health, maternal and child health, girls’ education, domestic violence and other gender-related themes.

In Family Choices, a three-episode game, players watch as Anu grows up and makes decisions related to staying in school, gender issues, distribution of household responsibilities and challenges related to poverty. A positive decision leads to a golden leaf and another step toward independence and empowerment, and allows the player to progress to the next episode. Negative choices put unadorned leaves in the player’s family tree, and lead to an invitation to repeat the episode to explore multiple pathways and their respective endings. As the game progresses, as in real life, the choices get harder. Episodes two and three also address early marriage, pregnancy, family planning and pursuit of higher education.

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