Heifer International, Beaconfire, and ForgeFX have collaborated to build a serious game that teaches players about poverty and hunger.
Heifer is a non-profit organization that uses an innovative and proven method to reduce poverty and hunger around the world: they give families living in poverty the gift of a goat, chicken, sheep, or other farm animal, along with training in sustainable farming practices. Heifer’s gift recipients use the products from their animal (like milk, eggs, and wool) to feed and clothe their families, and can sell the extra to support themselves financially.With Heifer’s tradition of “Passing on the Gift”, these families give the offspring of their animals to their neighbors; in this way, a single Heifer gift can help lift an entire village out of poverty.
With this serious game, we hope to educate players about real world conditions of poverty, how communities can create sustainable solutions to this plight and how Heifer’s program can be part of the solution. The game is called Heifer Village: Nepal, and its goal is to simulate the challenges faced by those living in poverty and hunger, and to demonstrate some specific methods to address these issues.
Players of Heifer Village experience realistic scenarios about the issue of hunger and the potential solutions that exist. Ideally, a player will walk away from the game with a desire to contribute towards solutions in real world villages (i.e. donations or other direct actions). The project also aims to provide a window of direct experience into a part of the world, and a way of life, which most people would otherwise never experience.
In the game, players take the role of a 12-year-old girl in a Nepalese village that is struggling with both poverty and hunger. The game currently contains 4 tasks/missions which we call lesson nodes. Each lesson node both offers an activity and teaches a core principle. For example, one lesson node might teach players about the issue of deforestation as they collect firewood to cook their dinner. The lessons in the game mirror the experiences of Heifer’s real-life partners in Nepal, like Chanamati Thapa, a woman who used the income from her Heifer goats to start a flour mill and buy a water buffalo; Chanamati now shares the agricultural skills she learned from Heifer with her neighbors.