Thursday, November 29, 2012
by: MANNY TSIGAS
The Australian Red Cross has launched a smartphone app that aims to give users some insight into the challenges faced by millions of refugees around the world.
The Australian Red Cross has released a new smartphone gaming app that challenges users to make some of the life-and-death decisions faced by refugees.
"And Then I Was a Refugee..." begins in West Somalia, where users select one of two characters.
When their village is attacked by rebels, users are required to make a series of decisions to progress in the game.
The scenarios range from deciding whether or not to join the rebels, to possibly accepting help from a people smuggler.
"Some of our staff came forward with this idea for a project that would bring Australians face to face with a refugee journey," said Australian Red Cross CEO Robert Tickner.
"We've got a very clear idea of the real life challenges people face when they're essentially running for their life.
"I think it's true to say that there's been a little bit of hardening of the heart in some sections of the community. I think good public policy will best be formulated when we have an informed community."
Tech journalist Valens Quinn from the Gadget Group says the game was an innovative way for the Red Cross to spread its message.
"It does compel you, because it's story-driven," he said. "It's very educational and it does achieve the goals, which are to educate people about the challenges facing refugees, and the Red Cross' role in helping them."
But Quinn says the game's effectiveness beyond the realm of education is limited.
"I think [its message] could be overlooked by users. In the game genre you're looking for entertainment, so I don't know why you'd want to download something as heavy as this just for fun.
"You can't think of it as a traditional game. It's a purpose-built tool to help build compassion and understanding."
The Red Cross recommends the app for people aged nine and over.
Robert Tickner said teenagers were the most likely to take an interest in it, and the feedback he's received so far has been positive.
"No description is perfect, it's obviously simulated," he said. "But I think it's a good simulation that raises exactly the kind of practical challenges that people face.
"We want to employ cutting edge communication ideas for all our work."
The app is available here for Android devices and here for Apple devices.
To find out more, or to make a donation, visit redcross.org.au/mobile