The developers of a video game called Undercover UXO, (short for unexploded ordnance) aim to teach children in Cambodia and other war-torn regions about the dangers of land mines and other explosive devices - remnants of past wars in the region. In Cambodia, explosive devices have injured nearly 64,000 people in the last three decades, according to the Cambodian Mine/Explosives Remnants of War Victim Information System. Around 286 people were injured last year.
The new video game was designed by professors at Michigan State University using a $78,000 grant from the State Department. The game has been selected by the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation for a pilot run in Cambodia. So far, the game has been tested on children in its Phnom Penh office before introducing it to communities that are more rural and where the dangers of mines is even more prevalent.
The video game uses a system that turns mistakes that would be deadly in real life into valuable lessons. In the game, players guide a pet dog to food while avoiding hidden dangers. Players increase their scores by recognizing danger indicators such as a skull-and-bones sign, or more subtle visual clues such as barbed-wire fences.
Distribution is proving to be a challenge because it was originally designed for use on $100 laptop, the XO-1 computer. The latest version of the game can be used on PCs and the XO-1, with plans to make it available for Macs and Linux. There are also plans for smartphone and the Web versions of the game at a later date.
We hope this game makes its way to countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, where the dangers of war are still a reality.