Heifer to Launch Serious Game

In an article I wrote recently for WE magazine, Play for Change, I used one of my favorite nonprofits, Heifer International, to help illustrate how serious games might create a higher level of engagement with an organization than some of the more typical communication practices. Ironically, Heifer must have been at work on its own game for change at the time I was writing the article, as I learned today via Future-Making Serious Games that a beta version of a new Heifer game, Heifer Village: Nepal, is now available. Here’s the game set-up:

In this village a few are prosperous, but most struggle with hunger and poverty. You are Esha, a young girl who belongs to a poor family. Your mother Sabitri’s dearest wish is to somehow acquire a goat. A goat would provide your family with milk and the means of making money, which would allow you to go to school.

For those not familiar with Heifer, the organization’s approach is to donate a goat, cow, chickens, or other domestic farm animals to families living in poverty. The animals become a source of income and nutrition to the family and the the recipients are also required to Pass on the Gift by donating offspring to other families. The Heifer game is apparently based on 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.

The game was developed by ForgeFX in collaboration with Beaconfire Consulting. ForgeFX is currently seeking input on the beta version (e-mail them). Some specific questions the company is asking for input on are:

  • Did you have any problems getting into the game (i.e. plugin installation)?
  • Did you know what to do when the game started?
  • Is the user interface intuitive?
  • What do you think of the level of the difficulty, navigation, usability?
  • Were you able to complete the first lesson node (gathering wood for the fire)?
  • Overall, how can we better reach the goals we’ve stated?

Personally, I found the game reminiscent of a combination of 3rd World Farmer, which I discuss in the Play for Change article, and Darfur is Dying. I found the game action less intuitive than in the former, and the ability to move around not as easy as in the latter. I’ll be submitting this feedback, and I encourage you to try the game and submit your own.

Jeff Cobb
Mission to Learn

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