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Last Updated: Monday, 16 August, 2004, 08:26 GMT 09:26 UK
UN creates game to tackle hunger
By Alfred Hermida
BBC News Online technology editor

Screenshot from Food Force
Make your way past rebel checkpoints to deliver food
A forthcoming video game aims to teach children about global hunger.

Food Force is the brainchild of the World Food Programme (WFP), which last year fed more than 100 million people.

The UN body seeks to capitalise on the popularity of video games to educate youngsters about hunger and the work of the aid agency.

The game is due to be released later this year for the PC and Mac, and will initially only be available in the US as a free CD or download from the net.

Mission critical

Food Force is being developed by Deepend, a computer design studio based in Rome, and game developers Playerthree in London.

"The game itself is somewhere between a game like Tomb Raider and a lecture from the WFP," explained the game's designer, Mike Harrison.

Screenshot from Food Force
One of the missions is a Sim City type game
"It starts with a short movie that explains a crisis in an imaginary country due to drought and civil war, two of the main reasons for people being hungry in the world," he told the BBC programme, Go Digital.

The challenge for players is to complete a series of missions, guided by a team of WFP characters.

The missions range from dropping food parcels from the air to a Sim City type game where players use food aid to rebuild the country's economy.

But there is more to the game than just fun. At the end of each mission, players are shown a short video explaining how the aid agency would have dealt with the situation.

Children can also compare their scores with other players across the world on the Food Force website.

Free for all

The people behind the game are confident that it will be a hit with the target audience of children aged between eight and 13 years old.

Screenshot from Food Force
Characters from the WFP guide children through the game
"We did a number of testing sessions here in Rome with different age groups and the response has been very good," said Mr Harrison.

"From the feedback sessions we had, the kids are remembering 75% of the information about what the WFP do."

Food Force will be free, either as a CD or as a download from the internet. The WFP is also looking at distributing it in schools as an educational tool.

Initially the game for the PC and Mac will only be available in the US.

Deepend's Mike Harrison
Good response from children

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