Refugee game offers fear, flight and safety - one click at a time

News Stories, 7 November 2007

© UNHCR
A still from Against All Odds.

WASHINGTON, United States, November 7 (UNHCR) An online game aimed at turning schoolchildren into persecuted refugees at least for a time made its debut in English on Wednesday with its first player in the United States declaring it, "a great game."

After finding his way to safety in UNHCR's refugee experience game Against All Odds, 12-year-old Afshin Fadakar from Maryland called the experience "a great way to inform people about refugees."

Over the years there have been many educational tools created for raising awareness about refugees, but few have offered the chance to experience what it is like to be a refugee. In Against All Odds, the player is interrogated, hears the sound of guards' footsteps approaching, and senses the urgency in finding safety while racing against the clock.

Against All Odds is an online game created to increase students' awareness and knowledge about refugee situations by putting players in the position of a refugee. The game and its resources, originally launched in Swedish, are now available in English, adding to a list of languages that includes German, Greek, and Norwegian.

Making the game accessible to students from different countries who speak different languages allows a greater number of individuals to play and learn from the unique gaming experience.

"For most kids who don't know much about refugees, this game is really helpful," Afshin said. "It's great for teaching kids, especially the 'Web Facts' section. If they get confused or lose in the game, they can learn more in the web facts."

In Against All Odds intolerance is one of many obstacles a player is forced to overcome, others include interrogation, flight and language barriers. Divided into three categories "War and Conflict," "Borderland" and "A New Life" Against All Odds takes players on a journey towards asylum, but also touches on issues of understanding and intuition in different environments.

Players will be challenged by a variety of obstacles and scenarios simulating struggles that refugees are forced to deal with every day, from sneaking out of town to dealing with prejudices in a new place.

"In the United States and other developed countries it can be difficult for people to understand the challenges refugees face. By getting Against All Odds into classrooms across the US, we hope to open the door, at least a little, towards a better understanding," said Tim Irwin, UNHCR's senior public information officer in Washington.

The game itself is complex, challenging and, at times, confusing, much like real life refugee experiences.

Along the way, players can learn more in the web facts section, where they can read stories and watch films about individual refugees. In addition to providing moving first-hand accounts, the web facts section offers a variety of other important refugee information articles and resources.

Against All Odds also has a "teacher information" page. This section provides various lesson plans, learning activities, and other interesting educational resources that can be of use both inside and outside the classroom.

In the US, a link to the game will be available on the website (www.unrefugees.org) as part of the agency's "Teachers' Corner" education programme, which reaches thousands of elementary, middle and high school teachers across the country.

By Kelsey Kofford in Washington D.C., United States