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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 January 2008, 15:28 GMT
Teach-yourself game design site
Alien graphic from MyGLife.org
Users can start with very simple animations
A new social networking site in the US has been launched with the aim of helping disadvantaged young people by teaching them how to be game designers.

MyG-Life, established by American-Israeli entrepreneur Idit Caperton, is aimed at teaching children how to build their own computer games online - and then give them the chance to share and assess each others' work.

The project has been rolled out initially in West Virginia, but is set to go global later this year.

"We send you to evaluate different kinds of web-based games; you write your different ideas and perspectives as a player and as a producer," Ms Caperton told BBC World Service's Culture Shock programme.

"Then you are sent off to do different kinds of projects and tutorials, that take you into the world of not just playing web games - which is what all children like to do these days - but put you right away in the perspective of a producer, a designer, a programmer and a game maker.

"We ask students to delve into the open-source code of existing games that we created in the past, and start manipulating it - changing the graphics, changing the text, and remixing their own games."

Fostering understanding

My G-Life is based around a similar structure as other social networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook, in allowing users to create a space to update things about their lives.

But the difference is that the site also teaches its members things like game design and graphic animation skills.

Israeli students
The site will go on to target Israeli and Palestinian students
Ms Caperton said that the aim was ultimately to give users better prospects for the future.

She also said the site will particularly target students in Israel and the Palestinian territories, in an effort to foster greater understanding between them.

"We are a global foundation - our mission is to reach youth globally, and to create multiple networks," she said.

"Cisco gave us some seed funding to start networks in the Middle East to develop the platform, and take Arab-Israelis, Jewish Israelis and Russian immigrants from five different cities and get them all connected through learning how to make games about education, social purpose and social change.

"That was very successful, and led us to go and do some pilots at the college level at the American university.

"Now we are in conversations to continue the work with urban Jewish Israelis as well as Palestinian students, and see if, both at the high school level and the college level, we can create this powerful network."

The site is also in conversation with foundations in India and Amnesty International, looking at incorporating this in their youth strategy for Asia-Pacific.

Trend expert Martin Raymond told Culture Shock that My G-Life was at the forefront of a "cultural shift" in the nature of social networking sites.

Where these sites used to be about the number of people that a person can connect with, they are now about the number that they can collaborate with, he believes.

"The whole idea is that work used to be something you did to make money - now it is something you do to better your personality," he said.

"This is not about the number of friends you have, it is about the number of collaborations you make to better your personality and the personality of those around you."

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