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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 June, 2004, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Virtual island way to green life
By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent in Budapest, Hungary

Computer game front page   EEA/WHO
Honoloko's backers hope to catch them young
A hi-tech attempt to stimulate the next generation to think and act green has been launched by two European groups.

Honoloko is a computer game set on a virtual island, and is produced jointly by the World Health Organisation and the European Environment Agency.

The game, aimed at 10 to 14-year-olds, shows the impacts of daily choices on human health, especially children's.

Players have to take the decisions they think will best protect health and the environment while navigating the board.

The game is being launched here at a conference of European health and environment ministers.

Visible results

The sorts of problems confronting players include the impacts of transport, energy use, water pollution, climate change, consumption and waste.

Players progress round the island by answering questions: they are given "info nuggets" beforehand explaining what is involved.

We hope Honoloko will change players' behaviour by wrapping up its message as entertainment
Bert Jansen, European Environment Agency
If their decisions sustain the health of Honoloko's virtual inhabitants and its environment, the gameboard sprouts blooming flowers and happy people.

Choices that cause pollution or are unsustainable or unhealthy make the trees die and the inhabitants sicken.

Answers are rated against four indicators: energy use, resource use, health, and fitness. Each answer has an impact on Honoloko's environment and health that is reflected in these indicator scores.

While there are no "wrong" answers, different choices clearly have different impacts.

When the game is over players receive an overall score for each of the four indicators, with a short description of the effect of their choices.

A table of high scores will be maintained on the website, with players invited to submit their scores to the EEA each month to join a prize draw for the best.

No doubles entendres

Bert Jansen is the EEA's multimedia products manager. He told BBC News Online: "We want both to raise awareness and to change behaviour, and one of the most modern ways of doing this is through computer games.

"We hope Honoloko will change players' behaviour by wrapping up its message as entertainment."

Asked what prizes would be on offer, Mr Jansen said: "Probably some badges."

The name Honoloko was chosen from 10 possibles tested on children. It is meant to sound rhythmical, to be geographically neutral, and to have no unfortunate meanings in any of the 25 languages of the EEA's member states.

Honoloko is available free online or on a CD-Rom in all 25 languages, and in Russian.

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