US videogame trains Cambodian kids to detect and avoid land mines

The game, called Undercover UXO, tasks children with guiding a dog to food through an environment laced with explosive hazards. Players are rewarded points for identifying places where land mines or other deadly devices may be hidden, while coming in contact with an undetonated weapon triggers explosive sound effects and life-saving advice from an NPC.

Undercover UXO was developed for play on the super-cheap XO-1 laptop, and is currently being rolled out to Cambodian schools by the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation, a Woodland-Hills nonprofit group. It has already been tested by a handful of Phnom Penh students, some of whom, like 14-year-old Chob Sopheak, were able to pick up the game's controls in no time flat despite having no prior experience with laptops.

"I think it's fun, and it teaches me to be more careful," said Sopheak.

"The game is different from real life. People have only one life," added fellow 11-year-old tester Chamroeun Chanpisey.

The Michigan State University development team is now working on a digital template that would allow other eastern countries the opportunity to incorporate Undercover UXO's vital lessons in their classrooms using different languages and cultural images. The game will also be made available on the internet, all computers and for smartphones sometime in the future.

[Source: Los Angeles Times]

May 2, 2011