The Durfur Is Dying game represents a trend in understanding the plight of others. Like the Spent game for Urban Ministries in Durham, this interactive component gives players bits and pieces of the story as they play. Players quickly realize through playing the game, just how difficult it is to forage for water and avoid dangers such as rape, kidnapping, capture, abuse and death. Players have to help fellow villagers survive by building shelter, getting food and medical supplies and avoiding militia attack.

By forcing players to faces the demands those living in Darfur face every day, the game creates empathy by increasing awareness and understanding. Throughout the game, prompts are issued for players to take real-life action to help those involved in the crisis.

While games can be an effective way of creating empathy for others, the subject matter is important and it isn’t always the best way to present information, as evidenced by the “Playing the News” project. The project found that while the game tested well, facts and links organized by topic tested higher in terms of news content. This project emphasizes the fact that content is still king and should drive interactive approaches.

In terms of creating empathy, forcing an audience to understand the demands facing others is crucial and most easily accomplished by games. As Jane McGonigal points out in her book, “Reality is Broken,” and her numerous public appearances, games have rules, consequences and rewards, just like life. By establishing rules that relate to the circumstances many people in need find themselves in, players get a glimpse of just how difficult life is for some.

While the “walk-a-mile-in-their-shoes” approach is often successful in an interactive context, it is by no means the only way to create empathy. Photos and videos also do this incredibly well. This can be evidence by the numerous broadcast campaigns that tug at the heart strings. Consider the SPCA video with abused animal images and an emotional song or the countless pleas to feed hungry children in impoverished countries – those ads wouldn’t be as convincing without the images of those in need.

The most successful projects turn the empathy created within games or campaigns into real-world action. Such projects must have a clear call to action contained within them, so that once users care about the cause, they know what to do and have been empowered to do it easily, with little time to change their mind. By making it easy for users to donate or volunteer, interactive components bridge the gap between education and action.

The Darfur interactive even gives users multiple ways to “Take Action.”  Allowing users to choose ways in which they would like to help gives them a feeling of empowerment and more of a connection to the cause. Sometimes people want to connect with more than just donating cash, options like this allow that exchange easily and effectively.

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