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'Ethical' computer games take on the shoot-'em-up classics
[June 29, 2006]

'Ethical' computer games take on the shoot-'em-up classics

(The Daily Telegraph, Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) HELP is at hand for parents worried about the violent computer games their children play. "Ethical'' computer games are finding a toe-hold in a market dominated by shooting and fighting.

Gamers used to decimating alien and zombie hordes can now role-play in a Darfur refugee camp, become a peacekeeper in the West Bank, and run the lives of a poverty- stricken family in Haiti.

The games are part of a new breed from software designers, weary of violence, who want to create "real life'' content. Thus, in the game Darfur is Dying, players must forage for food and water while avoiding murderous Janjaweed militiamen. Up to 300,000 people are thought to have died in the conflict in Darfur, western Sudan.

In Ayiti, the game simulating a Haitian slum, players will see screen prompts such as "Your son has bloody diarrhoea.''

"There's nothing intrinsically violent or moronic about computer games,'' said Suzanne Saggerman, who organised the "Games For Change'' conference in New York, where many of the games are being shown for the first time.

According to some polls more than over half of the US population regularly play games on their computers, ranging from solitaire and online chess to Grand Theft Auto, where players can break into cars and randomly shoot passers-by.

"Ethical'' computer games emerged earlier this year, when the UN released a game about distributing aid to disaster zones, called Food Force. It prompted a flurry of interest in games with real-life applications, especially for children.

Susana Ruiz, one of the designers of Darfur is Dying, said she created a game about genocide after hearing her nephew describe a school lesson about the Holocaust.

"I was struck that he didn't know anything about Darfur, and this is a tragedy happening right now. Genocide isn't just history,'' she said.

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