GLOBAL: Mobile phone games with a message
A well-designed mobile phone game could help get across to children some important health and environmental messages
ISTANBUL, 23 March 2009 (IRIN) - Fancy a mobile phone game for your child with underlying messages like the need to wash your hands with soap before eating, how best to preserve water, or what to do in a flood or tsunami?
“More and more children, including those in developing countries, have mobile phones… Instead of ‘Snake’ [a game on many Nokia mobiles] you could have a game that educates,” Joke Witteveen, head of Xmediaworks
, a company that makes instructive games for teachers, scientists, health-care specialists and for corporate training, told IRIN in Istanbul.
According to Wikipedia
, “Snake” was first pre-installed on Nokia models in 1997, and it and its variants have since been played by over a billion people.
A well-designed game could help get across to children some important health and environmental messages. “You can use many games on a mobile phone for that,” Witteveen said. “We spend a lot of time waiting for a bus or in a bus, so why not use that time?”
She acknowledged, however, that mobile phone or any other interactive games could only supplement mainstream education.
“You still need the parents; you still need the school teachers to guide children… When you use gaming or media you still need somebody to put it into context,” she said.
“We have some games already and we are working with a company in the Netherlands; they have special education programmes and are trying to put them on mobile phones,” Witteveen said.
Alix Zwane from Google.org, the charitable arm of Internet search engine company Google, said mobile penetration was 26-36 percent in many sub-Saharan countries. He suggested this could be a platform for “out-of-the-box” innovations regarding the water sector.
Witteveen highlighted two main problems - cost, and bringing together those who make the graphics and teachers.
“My experience is that teachers don’t know how to game and gamers don’t know how to teach,” Witteveen said. “Teachers need to make sure children don’t just learn the game but also get the message.”