UN refugee agency computer game beats out Mozart for Austrian award

UN refugee agency computer game beats out Mozart for Austrian award

A United Nations computer game aimed at promoting positive attitudes towards refugees by taking players through the trauma of fleeing persecution and seeking asylum has beaten the world famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to garner a prestigious Austrian award for an interactive computer game.

LastExitFlucht (LastExitFlight) - which can be found at www.LastExitFlucht.org and played free of charge - was awarded the Austrian Multimedia and E-Business State Prize in the category for “Knowledge and Learning,” after beating off stiff competition from a CD-Rom about the life of Mozart.

“We are working with real refugees every day all over the world - so we know their reality,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) public information officer Roland Schönbauer said, accepting the award last week before 400 selected guests, including the speaker of the Austrian parliament Andreas Khol.

A jury of 14 experts from universities, the corporate sector and the media which chose the winner praised LastExitFlucht as “a game which excellently creates empathy for the situation of refugees.” While it is aimed at teenagers, the panel said the game also forced adults to reflect on political attitudes towards refugees. They praised the game's realism and design.

The game, launched in March by UNHCR for the youth market in German-speaking countries, takes players through the experience that millions of refugees face, including fleeing their homes and struggling to with a new culture and language in a foreign land.

Among the different scenarios, players must overcome obstacles in leaving their homes in search of safety and assistance. In exile, they must cope with the difficulties of starting a new school, not knowing the language and having to make new friends. They also experience what refugees go through when facing discrimination on the streets, applying for a job and generally starting a new life.

It is a reworked version of a Swedish-language game, Motallaodds, which was designed by UNHCR in Stockholm and launched last December. There is also a Norwegian version and the agency hopes to translate it into other languages, including Danish and English.

LastExitFlucht also provides a factual library including interviews with real refugees and charts the history of asylum in Europe, explaining the difficulties refugees in Europe currently face in upholding their rights. With some 120,000 hits since its launch, the site has received enthusiastic support from young people, teachers and the media in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.