Two dozen students from South Shore High School, in the Flatlands neighborhood of Brooklyn, are creating their own "serious" video games -- games that dispense with the gore and violence of commercial first-person-shooter fare in favor of exploring real life problems -- and how complex it can be to come up with solutions -- in a fresh and interactive way.
The students have just unveiled their first game creation: Ayiti: The Cost of Life, which makes the player responsible for an impoverished Haitian family. Barry Joseph of non-profit Global Kids, which worked with the students on developing the game, told NY1 reporter Adam Balkin,
For the last year we met for one week after school in the computer lab to teach the young people not only how to think critically about game design but also learn about world issues. And together we came up with both a game concept and an issue they were passionate about and we worked with game developers to put the two together...it's a really challenging strategy game where you have to manage a family of five over four years and keep them alive, get them healthy, keep them educated and make sure they don't fall into debt and die. For an educator using it, it's an amazing opportunity to teach young people about how poverty is an obstacle to education in Haiti and at the same time go outside the game and teach kids about other issues they can take action in.
Students said they have learned not just how to develop a video game, but also gained some new insights into how hard their parents work, or how people in Haiti are strugging to get by and get an education.
As Jamais Cascio wrote on WorldChanging global last year, "Because games are active, not passive, forms of entertainment, they have a very real potential for education. You don't just watch people making choices, you make them yourself." Sounds like The Cost of Life hits the mark.