Computer game teaches about hunger crisis

By  Natalie Guadagnoli, The Catholic Register
  • November 24, 2006

Food Force gameTORONTO - Catholic students across Ontario might soon play computer games inside the classroom instead of outside.

Julie Marshall, Canadian communications consultant for the United Nations World Food Program, has approached more than 20 Catholic school boards in Ontario about including Food Force in school curriculums.

Food Force is a computer game designed by the United Nations World Food Program to help children ages eight to 13 learn more about the fight against world hunger.

"It's fun to play and educators like it because children are actually learning something. What we want is children  playing, enjoying and taking something back," said Marshall.

The game opens up with a full-screen video sequence where the player is briefed on a hunger crisis on the fictitious island of Sheylan. The Food Force team appears as a set of animated characters that help guide the player through the game.

The player takes on the role of the team rookie working alongside a team of emergency aid workers. All missions present the player with a number of realistic challenges to quickly feed thousands of people in Sheylan.

In the first mission players pilot a helicopter and locate how many people need food. Mission two is all about nutrition. Players create a well-balanced meal on a budget of 30 cents (U.S.). The third mission is an air drop, where the player drops food down to Sheylan. Locate and dispatch is mission four, where the player is challenged to complete a logistics puzzle and fill up Sheylan's food supply for the next six months. The fifth mission is a food run where players guide a convoy of trucks to a feeding camp in Sheylan. In the last mission players "invest food" to grow development projects. Tasks include piloting helicopters on reconnaissance missions, negotiating with armed rebels on a convoy run and distributing food to help the villages.

Each mission begins with an educational video segment about the reality of WFP's work. The videos also include statistics. You learn that hunger kills more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. WFP characters give feedback on players' performance and once all six missions are completed players can submit their scores to the international high score database on the Food Force web site (www.food-force.com).

The game is designed to run on a standard PC or Apple computer. It is currently available in English, Polish, Italian and Japanese. Food Force is available as a free Internet download.

(Guadagnoli is a Grade 11 student at Loretto Abbey Catholic Secondary School in Toronto.)

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