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Unesco launches HIV-based video game


The United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) recently launched an interactive multimedia tool on HIV and Aids prevention for youth.

The computer game, titled, Fast Car: Travelling Safely Around the World , showcases and provides titbits of information on World Heritage sites around the world, including Mosi-oa-Tunya, commonly known as Victoria Falls, Khami Ruins National Monument, Great Zimbabwe National Monument and Matobo Hills in Zimbabwe.

The game is targeted at young people aged 16 to 24 years or older, and aims to provide accurate and reliable information about HIV prevention, while educating, entertaining and promoting healthy behaviour.

The game, produced by Unesco’s communication and information sector with support from the World Heritage Centre, is available in English, French and Russian.

“The idea was to create a game to fill in the gap in the computer games arena. We built a game that is packed with scientifically accurate information. We realised that many young people around the world are fascinated by computer games yet there are very few games which are informational,” said Irmgarda Kasinskaite-Buddeberg, Unesco’s programme specialist in the communication and information sector.

“Teenagers often want to talk to their parents about HIV-related issues, but may find it difficult to do so. Children may worry about parents’ disapproval and have fears about the risk of becoming infected with HIV. Parents are often shy, lack accurate information about HIV and Aids, or do not have sufficient skills to speak about prevention with their children, and teachers frequently assume that parents will talk with children at home,” she added in a telephone interview with NewsDay from Paris, where Unesco is headquartered.

She said that the game provides information on existing preventive practices, treatment and care for HIV and Aids.

A player can race on circuits on five different continents and virtually “visit” some of the Unesco World Heritage sites. It also presents images of sites and interesting facts about the sites as players race by.

There are two tracks for each continent, a preliminary track and a championship track.

Every track has a set of checkpoints. At the checkpoint one can take part in a mini-quiz and possibly earn a time bonus.

The mini-quiz asks the player a multiple-choice question related to HIV and Aids prevention aimed at changing attitudes and risky behaviour.

“The importance of the game consists in providing young people with information materials on HIV and Aids that can be widely distributed through communication channels in order to help them to gain an accurate understanding of these issues and preventive practices. Unesco expects that this may change their behaviour,” said Kasinskaite-Buddeberg.

She said that one of the key ideas behind the game was to develop a cost-efficient tool that could be spread around the world utilising new information and communication technologies.

“You can download the game for free on our online portal and play it on your computer, or alternatively you can play it online, that is if you have unlimited Internet access. The computer game is not only entertaining, it is also educational. The game focuses mainly on HIV prevention,” she said.

To ensure that the information presented in the game is scientifically accurate, Unesco worked with local researchers and experts, including Path Ukraine (Ukraine), the Institution of Social Development (Vietnam) and Heidelberg University Department of Virology (Germany). Lakshya Digital Pvt Ltd (India) helped Unesco to develop the game concept and realise it technically.

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