A plane circles over a crisis zone. War. Drought. People are hungry. The aircraft goes into a steep climb before launching its first airdrop of food aid. A truck struggles up a muddy, treacherous road, and rebels loom. People are anxious, waiting and food is scarce.
This is the virtual world of "Food Force". Not an action film, but the first humanitarian video game about global hunger unveiled today by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) at the International Children's Book Fair in Bologna, Italy.
Communicating with children today means using the latest technology, said Neil Gallagher, WFP's Director of Communications. Children in the developed world don't know what it's like go to bed threatened by starvation. In an exciting and dynamic form, Food Force will generate kids' interest and understanding about hunger, which kills more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
While playing the game's six different missions alongside Food Force's crack team of emergency aid workers, players will be faced with a number of realistic challenges to quickly feed thousands of people in the fictitious island of Sheylan; piloting helicopters on reconnaissance missions, negotiating with armed rebels on a convoy run, and using food to help rebuild villages.
The PC based video game is available as a free internet download from te game's website, link available by following the download tab above. It is currently available in English, with translation into other languages planned.
The video game format, rather than traditional educational game technology, has the attraction of full screen video and 3D imagery. The Food-Force website is designed with a dedicated area for players to post their high scores. How to Help section provides ideas on fundraising and community involvement.
Based in Rome, Italy, the World Food Programme is the world's largest humanitarian agency. It is active on the frontlines of more than 80 countries in order to feed some 90 million people each year. Through emergency relief to hot meals in schools, WFP's vision is to end hunger which stalks more than 800 people in the world today.
The Food Force game opens with a full-screen video sequence where the player is briefed on a hunger crisis on the fictitious island country of Sheylan. The WFP Food Force team appear as a set of animated characters that help guide the player through the game.
Delivering food aid often involves a complex series of tasks. Before each mission begins, the player is presented with an educational video segment about the reality of WFP's work in field, allowing them to learn and understand how WFP responds to actual food emergencies; where food originates, nutritional breakdown and how it is delivered. Then, it's the players turn to take the mission challenge. Each challenge reflects one key
element of the food delivery process - from emergency response through to building long term food security for a community.
The 6 missions are:
1. Air Surveillance: A classic 'find-em' game - involves piloting a helicopter to count hungry people against the clock.
2. Energy Pacs: A combination guessing game to create a balanced diet with limited funds.
3. Air drop: Dropping food from a cargo plane into the crisis zone - with the playability of a classic golf game.
4. Locate & Dispatch: Solving the jigsaw puzzle of food logistics, against the clock
5. The Food Run: A series of mini challenges along the convoy-style drive to the feeding camp.
6. Future Farming: 'Sim City' in Sheylan - using food aid to help the island get back on its feet.
At the end of each mission the WFP characters present their feedback on the player's performance and encourage repeat play where necessary. When players complete all 6 missions, the game is over and they can submit their scores to an international high score database on the dedicated Food-Force website and compare with other players around the world.
Additionally, the website houses further information, teacher packs and other ways for children to get involved with the work of WFP. The game is designed to run on a standard PC or Apple computer and features 3D animated movie sequences to ensure a rich multimedia experience.