From raging wildfires, devastating floods and towering tsunamis to roaring hurricanes and cataclysmic earthquakes, children can now learn how to respond to and mitigate disasters through a new internet video game launched today by the United Nations, the latest in a series of such UN web tools.
“Education is essential for reducing children risks to disasters,” UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) Director Salvano Briceño said. “Children are the future mayors, architects, builders, school teachers and citizens of tomorrow.”
“If we teach them about disaster risk reduction from an early age, they will understand why it is vital to build houses, schools and hospitals in safe locations, to have early warning systems in place and reduce disasters,” he added of the game, which features in colourful panels various levels of play in guarding against or mitigating the impact of an advancing wall of flames, waves and other hazards. Drought may soon be added to the menu.
The free project, “Stop disaster game” (www.stopdisastersgame.org), part of ISDR’s campaign on education called “Disaster risk reduction starts at school, teaches youngsters how to build safer villages and cities against disasters.”
“Children will learn how the location and construction materials can make a difference when disaster strikes and how early warning systems, evacuation plans and education can save lives and livelihoods.” UN experts believe that had such systems and plans existed at the time of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami scores of thousands of the more than 200,000 lives lost could have been saved.
Produced by Playerthree, an English company, and downloadable in less than three minutes, the game gives players different types of missions to accomplish within a specific budget and time limit before a simulated hurricane, earthquake, flood, tsunami or wildfire strikes. They have to choose between five scenarios with three levels of difficulty and the winners will be the ones who save more people and livelihoods.
At present the game is available only on the internet and in English but a multi-language version will be released on International Disaster Reduction Day on 10 October. “We are aware that not all children have easy access to Internet and we are already preparing a DVD format to reach more youngsters in remote areas in Africa, Asia and Pacific or Latin America and Caribbean,” Mr. Briceño said.
“We are also thinking of adding new scenarios such as drought which is a devastating disaster in many parts of the world,” he added.
ISDR previously produced a board game called Riskland, aimed at children aged 6 to 10. The game has been a very successful educational tool and has been translated into many local languages, available at www.unisdr.org.
Nor is ISDR the only UN body turning to internet game to raise the awareness of youngsters. In 2005, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) launched ‘Food Force’ (www.food-force.com), an internet video game with a virtual world of planes launching food airdrops over crisis zones and emergency trucks struggling up treacherous roads under rebel threat with emergency supplies, to teach children the arduous but vital task of feeding the world’s hungry.
Millions of youngsters around the world have since downloaded the game.