A new game created by people that could best be described as pro al-Qaeda and wholeheartedly against the West have developed a game riddled with propaganda called Islamic Mali. The game lets players engage in aerial dogfights in the name of al-Qaeda against French forces. The game is fairly straightforward, simple and is played in top-down perspective.
Polygon offers a mildly interesting and inspirational story about how some favorite pastimes - soccer and video games - are being used to teach kids in the African nation of Rwanda about the importance of financial literacy. The game, Financial Football, is now in schools across the country and is being sponsored by the generosity of credit card giant Visa.
Nintendo has scored a rank of "0" from the watchdog group, the Enough Project. Out of the 24 companies on its list, Nintendo was the only one to receive the lowest rank possible. The Enough Project is a watchdog group that follows the money trail of "conflict minerals" from the Democratic Republic of the Congo where warlords are fighting for control of the country.
The Associated Press reports that residents in the Northern city of Gao in Mali are not happy after Islamists smashed television sets used to play video games and watch television shows that were considered "un-Islamic." The effort was intended to show residents that they are under Shariah law there. The Islamist fighters took up a strong position in the northern part of the Northeastern African country after they were they pushed back by Malian government troops in March.
Intel's marketing manager for South Africa, Ntombezinhle Modiselle, wants to bring games into local classrooms and she's using volumes of research to prove that it's a good idea.
"Today's learners are the gamer generation. They have grown up with technology and social networking. That's why it's only natural that today's more tech-savvy educators are recognising the potential of using games as a teaching device in their classrooms," said Modiselle.
South African newspaper Beeld is reporting that an unnamed man has been arrested for jailbreaking the PlayStation 3 in Parktown, Johannesburg today. This marks the first time someone has been arrested for such a crime in the country. The raid was conducted by the South African Police Service's Commercial Crime Unit, after receiving criminal complaints from the South African Federation Against Copyright Theft (SAFACT). Members of the police were assisted by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) Computer Forensics Lab.
ModernGhana.com reports that the government of Sunyani, a municipality in the African nation of Ghana, may pass strict laws on video game centers. Last week the 15-member Brong-Ahafo Regional multi-sectoral Child Right Committee expressed its concerns about an uptick in "commercial video game centres in the Sunyani Municipality." The committee appealed the Municipal Assembly to work with other institutions within the government to enact some sort of by-laws governing these businesses.
The photo is tagged Kinshasa, so it was likely shot in the capital city, which has some 10 million inhabitants.
Source: via boingboing
Last December GamePolitics reported on Pamoja Mtaani, a PC game developed through a partnership with Warner Bros. Interactive, North Carolina-based Virtual Heroes (creators of America's Army) and The Partnership For an HIV-free Generation.
The game's title translates to "Together in the Hood," and Pamoja Mtaani aims to help players learn skills to negotiate difficult issues such as crime and HIV in some of East Africa's most impoverished areas.
GP reader Wai Yen Tang dropped us a line to say that a video report on the game and how it is being used is now available on YouTube.
Social activism in virtual venues may indeed transfer to the real world.
New World Notes reports on such a transition by Second Lifer KallfuNahuel Matador, who in 2006 helped protect an SL African genocide awareness site from griefers.
Turn the clock ahead three years, however, and the flesh-and-blood man behind the Matador avatar is in the real Africa, doing backbreaking volunteer work (see pic). He told NWN's Wagner James Au:
The friends I made in the [SL] Virtual Camp Darfur are heavily involved in humanitarian activities in their first lives. Better World and Camp Darfur were extensions of their work and attempts to spread the word of the causes they stood for...
We discussed telling [their African hosts] we'd met in SL, but the idea of a virtual world where we interact but not in our own bodies? Difficult to convey...
[SL users should] really get to know the people you're working with in SL, research their [real-life] projects. Get to know them, talk to them, see if there's a 'fit' for you in their cause... Or, And if you aren't lucky enough to be able to travel far and wide, then find a way to help the cause locally.
A speech delivered by Barack Obama in Ghana last month was the President's "most tweeted, Facebooked, and SMS'd event to date," according to Second Life Examiner (GP: although it's unclear how the site arrived at that conclusion).
The event was streamed live into both Second Life and Metaplace. The Click Heard Round the World offers its take on the event:
After President Obama's speech, there was a virtual debrief with three African experts: Ghanian musician DNA (Derrick Ashong), Ambassador Kenton Keith and African studies Professor Timothy Burke of Swarthmore College. People in Second Life and Metaplace could ask the speakers questions as well as engage in back channel chat.
If you woke up this morning wondering who handles video game content rating chores in South Africa, Johannesburg newspaper The Times explains all.
American parents rely on the ESRB while mums and dads in the U.K. will be turning exclusively to PEGI by year's end. In South Africa, however, the Film and Publications Board is responsible for issuing age guidelines for game content. Ratings run from PG, 13, 16 and 18. The Times explains:
Games rated PG contain no references to drugs, no foul language and no nudity, but may contain “minimal violence in playful, comic or highly stylis ed settings”...
Further, games rated 13 are similarly restricted in terms of drug references, foul language and nudity, but may contain “sequences of mild violence”, provided there is “no mutilation or dismemberment of animal or human bodies”.
The 16+ classification makes allowances for drug reference — provided they do not glamorise their use — and some nudity, provided it is not tied to incentives within the game. But with regard to violence, the game may include sequences of intense violence in graphic detail. Mutilation and dismemberment may occur in animated contexts.
The FPB's mission statement mentions that it seeks to maintain "relevance to the values and norms of South African society through scientific research."
While the Iraq War combat of Six Days in Fallujah was judged by some to be too fresh of a topic for portrayal in a video game, the recent hijack of the Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates seems to have touched no such raw nerves.
Gamasutra reports that Kuma Games, which carved out its niche by recreating episodic, ripped-from-the-headlines military action, will launch Somali Showdown: Pirates on the High Seas this week for the PC:
Somali Showdown allows players to take on the role of either a crew member or an invading pirate aboard a captured vessel.
During a simulated hijacking, crew members will attempt to fend off the pirates and regain control of the ship's operations room. Players joining the game as pirates will try to take over the operations room and sail the ship into Somali waters.
Somali Showdown is a free download.
Yesterday, GamePolitics reported that the mainstream (i.e., non-gaming) press was beginning to weigh in on the race issue in regard to Capcom's just-released Resident Evil 5.
As we noted, the AP's Lou Kesten was concerned. The Huffington Post's Earl Ofari Hutchinson was angry.
Seth Schiesel is the video game reporter for the New York Times. Like Kesten, he has a foot in both worlds. You can't any get more maintream than the Times, yet gaming is his daily beat. Schiesel, who reviews RE5 this morning. believes that the race issue is overblown:
Let’s get this out of the way: Resident Evil 5 is not a racist game.
For at least a year some black journalists have been wringing their hands about whether the game... inflames racist stereotypes because it is set in Africa. The answer is no... Resident Evil 5 exposes the perhaps uncomfortable truth that blacks and Arabs can become zombies too, just like anyone else... The point of the story is that the indigenous people have become the innocent victims of evil white people.
All that said, Resident Evil 5 could not possibly have been made in the United States. Racial sensitivities and prevailing political correctness would have had American game executives squirming in their Aeron chairs the minute they read a budget proposal for a game featuring African zombies.
Not so in Japan, apparently...
While the video game press appears to have reached a consensus that Resident Evil 5 is not racist in its portrayal of blacks, non-gaming media outlets do not seem quite so sure.
Lou Kesten, for example, who covers games for the Associated Press, straddles the line between games and the mainstream. In a syndicated column which will be reprinted across North America, Kesten clearly is uncomfortable with RE5's racial vibe:
Even longtime fans of the horror franchise may find themselves wondering: Is this game racist?...
Yes, the vast majority of monsters in "RE5" are infected black men. Does that make it racist? I believe producer Jun Takeuchi's claim that the story led naturally to Africa, and it's obvious that a zombie-creating virus unleashed there would lead to hordes of African zombies.
Still, there were plenty of moments where I felt uneasy after shotgunning a path through a crowd of feral Africans. Even though "RE5" makes some points about colonialism and capitalism... the racial imagery is more loaded than its creators probably realized.
Judged purely as a game, "RE5" is undeniably entertaining. But many players are going to find it disturbing for the wrong reasons.
At left-leaning political blog Huffington Post, commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson pulls no punches. For Hutchinson, RE5 is clearly an exercise in racism:
The well-worn script reads like this. A protest group blasts a video game manufacturer... for dumping a game on the market loaded with racially insulting and demeaning stereotypes. The video game team yelps that the game is pure entertainment, has some blacks or Latinos in on the design and production, and gets high marks from the industry...
So it was no surprise that Jun Takeuchi yanked out that script to defend his video game brainchild Resident Evil 5 from the charge that it's racist. But what else could one call it? It features a white male (modern day Bawana) mowing down a pack of poor, primitive disease challenged Africans... . The racist game reinforces the worst of the worst ancient stereotypes against and about Africans...
GP: When video game controversies flare, there is typically lag time between the gaming press's more immediate coverage and the issue's crossover to the mainstream media. Now that RE5 has been released, it's likely that the racism issue will be receiving a new round of attention from mainstream outlets in coming weeks.
Was it a bomb?
The Associated Press reports that a video game arcade in Casablanca was rocked by an explosion which left at least one person dead this morning:
Hassan Sajeed says the explosion occurred at about 8:45 a.m. in front of or inside a video game arcade on his street, the Boulevard el Joulane.
Sajeed said he believed the explosion was a bomb, and that windows were blown out as far as 40 meters (yards) away.
However, an unnamed official at the Moroccan Interior Ministry said that the blast appeared to be caused by natural gas.
The AP notes that Casablanca experienced a series of deadly terrorist bombings in 2003.
It's always great to see game tech being to put to use for purposes larger than mere entertainment.
Variety's Cut Scene blog reports that Warner Bros. Interactive will launch a free online game in Kenya designed to teach players about the risks of AIDS as well as how to prevent the spread of the disease.
The five-player game is called Pamoja Mtaani, which translates to Together in the Hood. It will target youth centers in Nairobi and features tunes from local hip-hop musicians. Pamoja Mtaani was developed by North Carolina-based Virtual Heroes, creators of America's Army.
Here's how Warner Bros. describes the game:
[Pamoja Mtaani] follows five strangers who are brought together through unforeseen circumstances, losing what is most precious to each of them. Working their way through various East African neighborhoods, players must recover the stolen items and help an injured woman on their quest. Along the way, they will experience barriers and facilitators to behavior change through a variety of missions and mini-games.
Pamoja Mtaani is an outgrowth of The Partnership For an HIV-free Generation.
The United Nations Population Fund has awarded Champlain College's Emergent Media Center a $600,000 grant to develop an interactive game aimed at preventing violence against women in developing nations. The target audience for the game will be young boys and the game will be rolled out in South Africa initially.
Citizen Sugar reports on a new, web-based game offered by the British Red Cross.
Traces of Hope is designed to raise awareness of the plight of children in war-torn Uganda:
Players aim to help Joseph, a boy whose home and family has been torn apart by rebels, find his missing mother. The game site says: "He has a satellite phone, you have the web – together you’ll make a great team. Time is running out; guide Joseph through sickness, fire and violence as together you follow his traces of hope."
By placing clues for the game around the Internet, the game creators hope to blur the boundary between the game and the real world conflict. Since atrocities in the region often go unnoticed, perhaps this educational entertainment will help some wake up.
Cnet Asia has more:
After registering your email, Joseph contacts you and the game begins... The game is part of the Civilians and Conflict Month, a media blitz to raise awareness on the plight of those displaced and separated from their families because of war.
Kenyan game designer Wesley Kirinya says that people in Africa are willing to buy games "if the content is relevant and it is African."
But if game development is challenging in the more developed nations, it sounds positively daunting in Kenya. Kirinya, creator of The Adventures of Nyangi (see video) talked about the challenges of game development in Kenya with website All Africa:
When I made my first video game, I first wanted to test whether people in Kenya would pay for it. What I can say is that, yes, there’s a market here, but it’s not as big as in the U.S. or Europe. It’s the sort of market that grows with your product. But if I made a video game, it wouldn’t be just for Kenya. I could sell it all over the continent, especially if the content is relevant and it is African...
It’s tough to find the people with the necessary skills to program a video game. It’s like you’re designing a whole virtual world. It takes skills in physics and math, and a video game is nearly a real-time application...
Funding is a major issue, Kirinya said:
The second problem is finding capital. Video games can take one to two years to make. That means one to two years without generating money. The only way to operate sometimes is to take people on a reduced salary or stipend with the promise of a large bonus after the game is created.
It’s also… difficult to get the exact machine you want from computer dealers here. The kind of computers I need to buy cost about 200,000 Kenyan shillings (about U.S. $3,333). Then add another 50,000 Kenyan shillings (about $833) to ship them. Then you have to clear them through customs. The entire process from purchase to use can take months. Those kinds of delays can cause you to lose morale. So when we want to use the same machines as guys in the U.S. or Europe, we’re already at a great disadvantage.
Cox Newspapers reported last year on Kirinya's game project, citing comments by Kenyan economist James Shikwati:
For him to just come up with a computer game is well ahead of his time because people will say, 'Kenyans, computer games? No, we don't make computer games. He has shown that computer games are not a preserve of the Western world.
The in-game advertising business might be growing in an unexpected direction.
Following this week's release of Teens, Video Games & Civics, a groundbreaking new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, there is speculation that political campaigns may seek to engage with gamers via advertising. The report notes that 56% of teen gamers are interested in politics and 61% have raised or given money to a charity.
Media Daily News reports comments by Joseph Kahne who co-authored the Pew report and directs the Civil Engagement Research Group at Mills College:
We're seeing more emphasis on digital media in general from politicians, so I think it's a real possibility. Games are digital media - and they're where kids are. And it's not just politicians. Even civic and advocacy groups could likely use games just as easily as they've used email to get people to volunteer, or donate, or march in support of a particular issue. On some levels, it's inevitable.
A few weeks back GamePolitics covered the so-called PlayStation War raging in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The issue revolves around Congo's supply of the mineral coltan, used in PlayStation 2's and many other consumer electronic devices.
In the latest development, a press release issued by the Panafrican Press Association charges that U.S. presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama just doesn't get it when it comes to the relationship between coltan and the ongoing conflict in Congo. Claiming that Obama has mistakenly portrayed the strife as ethnic, the PPA writes:
Statements... attributed to Obama, explains in part why there is such silence around the tragic situation in the Congo. The conflict is unfortunately and wrongly presented as ethnic bloodletting. The ethnic rationale... plays into long-held stereotypes that Africans are interminably trapped in "tribal bloodletting," hence, nothing can be done...
The central reason for the nearly six million dead in the Congo since 1996 is not "ethnic strife" but rather the scramble for Congo's enormous treasure trove of diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt, coltan, tin, timber and more...
Beneficiaries of Congo's resource war include foreign corporations and consumers... Coltan is a key mineral that drives the conflict in the Congo and is found in our cell phones, laptop computers, digital cameras, video game consoles and many other devices. Congo has anywhere from 64% - 80% of the world's reserve of coltan.
GP: We were surprised to learn that conservative Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) is taking an active interest in the Congo coltan situation. Indeed, however, Brownback and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced the Conflict Coltan and Casserite Act in the Senate on May 23rd. Of the legislative proposal, Brownback said:
We are witnessing a grave humanitarian crisis in Congo, and we must act now to put an end to the death and suffering. Everyday, Americans use products that have been manufactured using inhumanely mined minerals. The legislation introduced by Senator Durbin and I will bring accountability and transparency to the supply chain of minerals used in the manufacturing of many electronic devices.
Sen. Durbin added:
Without knowing it, tens of millions of people in the United States may be putting money in the pockets of some of the worst human rights violators in the world, simply by using a cell phone or laptop computer. We ought to do all we can to make sure that the products we use and the minerals we import, in no way support those who violate human rights abroad.
The PlayStation 2's requirement for a rare metal in its manufacturing process helped fuel a bloody, decade-long conflict in Africa's Democratic Republic of Congo, according to an investigative report on Toward Freedom.
The site alleges that demand for coltan by Sony and other personal electronics manufacturers led Rwandan troops and Western companies to exploit the people and mineral resources of Congo, with children often forced to work in mines.
Oona King, a former member of the British Parliament, told Toward Freedom:
Kids in Congo were being sent down mines to die so that kids in Europe and America could kill imaginary aliens in their living rooms.
So, what is coltan? From the report:
After it is refined, coltan becomes a bluish-gray powder called tantalum... [which] has one significant use: to satisfy the West’s insatiable appetite for personal technology. Tantalum is used to make cell phones, laptops and other electronics made, for example, by SONY, a multi-billion dollar multinational based in Japan that manufactures the iconic PlayStation...
Researcher David Barouski commented:
[The] PlayStation 2 launch... was a big part of the huge increase in demand for coltan... SONY and other companies like it, have the benefit of plausible deniability because the coltan ore trades hands so many times from when it is mined to when SONY gets a processed product, that a company often has no idea where the original coltan ore came from, and frankly don’t care to know. But statistical analysis shows it to be nearly inconceivable that SONY made all its PlayStations without using Congolese coltan.
A Sony rep told Toward Freedom that the company now takes steps to ensure that it does not use coltan illegally obtained from Congo in its manufacturing processes.