On the Ground Reporter: Darfur is a news game that uses real world images and video footage in gameplay to engage players to learn about conflicts in Darfur. At the beginning of this game, the reporter, who is in the Netherlands, receives a phone call from the fictitious Studio Radio Darfur in London about an urgent reporting assignment in Darfur. After being briefed on the task, the reporter is sent to west Sudan and starts the reporting adventure in four areas. In each location or village, the reporter can walk around, interview people, and gather artifacts that may be useful for news stories. Once the player collects all the designated pieces of information, a news story about the situation in the area is published before the player moves on to next village.
This game provides an engaging narrative structure that makes players want to learn more about the conflicts in Darfur in an information-rich and integrated online environment. In taking the identity of a reporter, the players have to collect and verify quotes and artifacts from locals as thoroughly as possible. The photorealistic backgrounds and unexpected emergencies in gameplay give players a firsthand look at the challenging conditions in these areas and immerse them in the virtual reality of conflicts. The automatically summarized news story at the end of each level is great scaffolding for students to learn about journalistic writing -- they might be excited to see how various items they encountered in gameplay are woven coherently into professional news stories, and have to be prepared for rejection from the editor with additional work for better, more accurate and balanced reports.
There are few occasions in which players have to be extremely watchful in order to find hidden pieces to move on to the next scene. While such searching experiences might represent some of the real challenges facing on the ground reporters in Darfur, they might frustrate some players stuck in the middle without any clues. Some hints after a couple of failed attempts might be helpful. In addition, the disclaimer section on the website makes it clear that the game production walks a fine line between fiction and non-fiction, and by no means completely reflects the nuances and complexities of the real world Darfur. It would be helpful to put this message up front at the starting of the gameplay to help young players better understand the nature of this online game narrative.
On the Ground Reporter Darfur illustrates exciting new possibilities for integrating and leveraging the power of game logic, real world images and video clips, and online news resources to learn about global issues. As online games become a popular medium for education, further conversations about effective pedagogies for game-based learning and ways to help youth better understand the strengths and limitations of learning with online games will be necessary.
The Bottom Line:
On the Ground Reporter Darfur effectively engages youth in the journey of discovering root causes of conflicts in Darfur.
Image: Logo via On the Ground Reporter: Darfur