Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Critics of the on-line poverty game "Urgent Evoke"

A couple of weeks ago, we were introduced to a new on-line game that focused on the real-world problems of poverty. The World Bank project puts players into a virtual Africa where they try to volunteer in humanitarian aid and development. The game called "Urgent Evoke" was developed by Jane McGonigal to raise awareness on the problems of the under-developed world.

Today, we find a story from FOX News that quotes some critics of the new game. Writer Joshua Rhett Miller found some who say that the game will not bring about any significant change.

"The best ways of communicating with African youth remain radio and newspapers," Mauro De Lorenzo, vice president of the John Templeton Foundation, wrote in an e-mail. "Only the most elite students have the regular access to a reliable Internet connection (and the free time) that participation in this game would require."

Lorenzo also questioned the site's usage of comic-book anime characters to market the game. "On a continent where formal-sector unemployment rates for young people exceed 50%, using comic book characters to promote formless volunteerism seems like cruel satire," he wrote.

Herb London, president of the Hudson Institute, a Washington-based think tank, called the venture a "foolish gimmick" and said he doubted that the "return on the investment" will be sensible.

Instead of creating an online world, London suggested using funds to increase Internet access directly in African countries.

"I just don't see this as a reasonable way to proceed," he said. "Why not create a real spine for Internet communication?"

The online game was created, Hawkins said, after the World Bank received a direct request from South African universities to find ways to engage students in community development issues. So far, upwards of 6,500 people, more than 600 of whom live in Africa, have signed up to play the game.

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