A new app has been launched that gives people the chance to put themselves in the shoes of aid workers delivering life-saving projects around the world.
From building dams to prevent flooding in Mali to building shelters in Pakistan, your little cartoon character will win points as you navigate through the different challenges.
The “one-of-a-kind” game, called Virtue Reality, comes from the international humanitarian aid charity Islamic Relief, and is based on the different kinds of projects they deliver.
The organisation works in over 40 countries, including some of the world’s most dangerous such as Yemen and Syria, delivering essential support to people caught up in conflict and national disasters.
It’s the first time a game has been released by a Muslim charity, it’s creators say, and it was developed in partnership with a games company Ultimatum Games. It was released on the app store last week and launched at a party at the UK’s National Videogame Museum in Sheffield.
As well as being a fun way of learning about aid work, the game's creators say part of their aim was to combat negative portrayal of Muslim characters in films and games, often cast as the “baddies”.
Shahid Kamal Ahmad, managing director at Ultimatum Games, explained that was part of why he wanted to get involved, saying that the game portrays the “generosity and humanity of the Muslim faith” and hopes that other video games will follow suit.
“Having worked in the video games industry for 37 years, I can’t help but notice that, as with the media and pop culture, Muslims are generally presented in a negative light in videogames,” he said, in a statement shared with Global Citizen.
“Often, when you see characters from the Islamic faith in video games they are othered as terrorists or villains you have to kill," he continued. "It is as though there is no other way for a Muslim to be: you never see any peaceful, ordinary Muslims just going about their lives."
He added: “The Qu’ran said that to save a life it as though you have saved all mankind, and Muslims take inspiration from this.”
Students in Sheffield try out the game, pic: Islamic Relief UK
Islamic Relief also hopes the game will help to fill a gap in knowledge about how the aid sector works.
The gamer is invited to build projects such as shelters, boreholes, and schools as the level goes on by clicking on them. The gamer accumulates “DeedCoins” – the game’s currency – to build the first phase of a project.
The player also receive feedback on how the project is going, and receives “donations” randomly from in-real-life funders such as the Department for International Development (DfID) or Charity Week.
The app is free, and any revenue generated from in-app purchases will support Islamic Relief’s work.
Judith Escribano, head of communications at Islamic Relief UK, said: “There is increased scepticism towards the charity sector, and often people do not understand that the work undertaken by organisations like Islamic Relief involves working with local people in poor countries to help lift themselves out of poverty.”
Let’s hope the game inspires others like it!