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Dr. Petroski
Dr. Petroski
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Darfur is Dying

on Thu May 24, 2018 9:24 pm
Since 2003, the Darfur region of Sudan has been the site of nearly 500,000 deaths and over 2.8 million displaced people fleeing civil unrest stemming from conflicts between several warring ethnic and tribal factions in Africa’s thirdlargest nation.

From April 2006 to April 2007, over 1.2 million individuals have relived the conflict—or at least, a virtual version of it—nearly 2.4 million times.

Referenced in Chapter 6, Darfur Is Dying is a particular type of video game—a serious game—designed to expose players to some of the details of the war in Darfur. In the game, players assume the role of a displaced refugee family that must fetch fresh water from a distant well and then bring the water back to help keep a refugee camp watered for seven days. In the meantime, players must avoid militia and armed security forces, and if they do get caught, the player is given a narrative account of how Janjaweed forces have been reported to treat their captives.

While the game has been criticized for doing little to actually impact the ongoing civil war, many critics suggested that it brought awareness to a conflict that had previously received little attention in international media. While it remains to be seen if Darfur Is Dying really provided a meaningful exemplar of the refugee experience in the Sudan, such games provide promise that we can learn and hopefully act on a number of social concerns not normally part of our daily lives.

In 2006, NPR’s Michelle Norris sat down for an interview with Susana Ruiz, the game’s creator and at the time, a graduate student at the University of Southern California. The complete interview is available at: npr.org.

What are your thoughts related to using online tools like games this way? Listen to the interview. What did it do for your awareness of the situation in Darfur? Did this change your thinking about using an online game to build awareness?

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Dr. Petroski
Department of Communication
Southern Connecticut State University
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