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After-School Program Creates Haiti 'Serious Game'

A new report from news hub IPS has detailed a new educational serious game project called Ayiti: The Cost of...
A new report from news hub IPS has detailed a new educational serious game project called Ayiti: The Cost of Life, which was created by 24 teenage students as part of a New York-based non-profit video game design after school class called Playing 4 Keeps. The game, the first to be developed by the program, is the result of a 500,000-dollar grant from Microsoft, and is expected to be released fall. In Ayiti: The Cost of Life, the player leads an impoverished Haitian family with limited resources by attempting to attain one or more of four goals: happiness, money, health and/or education. In addition, in playing the game, oftentimes one or more goals must be sacrificed at the expense of another, and few players are able to achieve all four. According to Playing 4 Keeps officials, the teens who developed the game decided to focus on poverty due to the economically depressed conditions in which they live themselves. However, learning about the far worse living conditions over the course of the game's development gave the teens a brighter outlook on their own daily lives. However, Barry Joseph, director of Global Kids' Online Leadership Programme, the organization that runs the Playing 4 Keeps class, notes that despite the fact that Ayiti: The Cost of Life is a serious game with educational goals, its ultimate goal is much the same as any mainstream video game, to entertain. “We were talking about a pretty heavy issue with Ayiti," commented Joseph to the student designers. “We were talking about poverty in Haiti... How do you do that without making it so depressing you don't want to play it? How do you keep it fun?” He added: “Serious games have a responsibility to not only reflect the real world in a way that doesn't trivialise the issue, but [also to still be] fun to play. That's what it's all about, so it's kind of hard to make serious games that work."

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