Computer Game Saves Children From Landmine Scourge – Profile Newspaper

Decades of war have left Cambodia with millions of landmines and unexploded ordnance that kill and injure hundreds each year. A new approach to educating children about mines was tested last week in Phnom Penh, and is likely to be rolled out to other nations in the coming years. There is nothing unusual about children clustered around a computer screen, one of them playing a game, the others giving suggestions. But at this orphanage, the game they are playing is unique. This is what its developers call a “serious” game – one that is designed to educate. The children are having fun while learning how to recognize the danger signs for landmines and bombs in a typically Cambodian landscape. Caption: Professor Frank Biocca, one of the game’s developers, holds a One Laptop Per Child Computer during his recent trip to assess the game’s effect In a country where last year nearly 250 people – one-third of them children – were killed or injured by mines and unexploded bombs, educating the next generation on how to avoid the detritus of war is vital. Professor Frank Biocca is from Michigan State University, where the game was developed as part of one of the university’s undergraduate programs. Biocca says the game works on most computer platforms: PCs, Macs, Linux, the Web – even on mobile phones, which he reckons will become the cheap computers for developing nations. Assisting with the testing is Allen Tan, the country head of the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation, a charity that provides technical advice to demining organizations. It was Golden West that approached Michigan State University two years ago and suggested that its students write a game to educate children about mines and unexploded ordnance. Tan, a former bomb disposal expert with the U.S. Army, says the game has potential to benefi t children in post-confl ict zones. If the game can succeed in transmitting that message to children in other post-confl ict countries, then it should go some way to reducing the deaths and injuries suffered by children from this 20th century problem.

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