Players must guide their character through various challenges
Type "free games" into an internet search engine, and you'll find
literally thousands of links to classics such as Pacman and Space
This week, however, these games are joined by an unusual addition.
Rather than chasing ghosts or fighting aliens, Against All Odds guides the gamer through the experience of being a refugee.
The game was designed by workers in the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Its various challenges include escaping from a hostile
town, guiding your character across a dangerous border and staying
alive in foreign lands with unfamiliar languages.
"We found that children start forming ideas on refugees
and similar issues at around the age of 12 to 15," said Katherine
Rodriguez-Norman, who helped develop the game. "This seemed like a
cost-effective way to target that audience."
At one level players must sign away a series of rights
The game certainly pitches for that age group. In one
section, the player goes through the awkward challenges of making
friends in a new classroom.
On another (somewhat more gruesome) level, the player
must sign away a series of rights; failure to comply results in blood
splashing across the screen.
The game was developed in UNHCR's Stockholm office using
money from a local donor. In 2005 staff released it in Norway and
Sweden, and set about encouraging teachers to use it in middle school
Ms Rodriguez-Norman says the feedback was largely
positive; the main criticism came from teachers who found some levels
"The target audience is the children," she told the BBC.
"And they find these games easier than the adults. Besides, those
levels show what it is like to escape from a police state: it is meant
to be a challenge."
Overall the feedback was enough to prompt translations
into fresh languages. Spanish, French, Danish, Finnish and Icelandic
versions are all in the pipeline.
The newly-released English translation can be found online.
See the blind beggars dance, the cripples sing, the idiot a hero, the lunatic, king...