What you need to know:
- Built on a character of a 15-year-old girl who was initially referred to as Dembe but later changed to ‘Peace’ for purposes of easy uptake and all inclusion nationally, the game comprises five chapters, with each presenting a vital moral lesson to the player at the end of each chapter before transiting to the next chapter.
Government has revealed that it will consider incorporating video games into upper primary and lower secondary schools to champion the fight against child violence and child marriages.
The promise to adapt Makerere University’s pro-social video-game was made by the State minister for Gender and Culture, Ms Peace Mutuzo, at the launch of the video game code-named ‘Peace’ and dissemination of findings from a nationwide survey on violence against children in Uganda held in Kampala on Wednesday.
Ms Mutuzo said government would support the initiative since the basis for its formulation is premised on evidence-based research conducted in the country. The minister pledged to popularise the tool and rally support for its uptake by the government.
“I am grateful that you have come up with a solution to these problems. I don’t know how you can share this game and I will be one of the advocates [to push its uptake],” Ms Mutuzo said.
She added: “Since there are also stakeholders in a number of schools and many bodies that unite schools, I am sure if we share the strategy of having counselling sessions, psycho-social support alongside formal education, it will be an additional tool to support children who have undergone this trauma or prevent it.”
Additionally, the minister said there is need for government to rethink its strategy in the fight against these vices that have since plagued children.
She commended developers for coming up with an initiative she that said presents a timely remedy that will also address the challenges of mental distress that children struggle with, even when majority don’t report or seek support.
Why video games?
One of the research fellows from the Social Work and Social Administration (SWASA) department at Makerere University, Ms Esther Nanfuka Kalule, said the decision to tackle this vice through video games was because of the need to exploit technology, which is highly preferred by children.
She also argued that it is viable because research had proved that it would pay off considering that teaching children verbally or through text material had more limitations as compared to video games.
“Our project’s objective is to target young people from a preventive perspective to eliminate gender-based violence (GBV) norms and the stereotypes that are deeply entrenched,” Ms Nanfuka said.
She also said the games are popular and attractive to the young people with the ability to capture and retain their attention through audio-visual technologies through which safeguard measures against vices of violence and child marriage are passed to the children as they play.
“For one to be able to get young people to be interested in something and a difficult subject such as GBV and gender inequality, you need to find them where they are,” Ms Nanfuka said.
She added: “They [young people] like playing digital games. So we had to think of something that can attract their attention and that is why we tapped into the digital technologies. The idea is that if you play the role of that character, it helps you appreciate in depth what the character is going through and then you are able to understand how child marriage causes suffering.”
Conducted between 2017 and September this year, the research was mostly in northern and central parts of the country in 77 schools where a total of 11,171 children were interviewed. Among the findings distilled from the research, it was found that 11.8 percent perceived pressure to get married. It also established that 70 percent of those interviewed experienced depression, and 14.2 percent attempted to commit suicide.
How it works
Built on a character of a 15-year-old girl who was initially referred to as Dembe but later changed to ‘Peace’ for purposes of easy uptake and all inclusion nationally, the game comprises five chapters, with each presenting a vital moral lesson to the player at the end of each chapter before transiting to the next chapter.
It comprises seven characters that are designed to instill a core preventive measure against child marriage or condemn violence in the mind of the player. It takes a quick player at least 20 minutes, with a maximum of 40 minutes for a relatively slow player before exhausting the five chapters.
The player is guided by instructions displayed at the top side on the interface to follow for a successful completion before transiting into the next chapter.
In so doing, the player develops with the character ‘Peace’, who at the start of the game is denied education, subjected to child violence and also exposed to dangers of child marriage possibilities by characters such as the boda-boda riders in the game. For successful completion, the player follows instructions that deliver ‘Peace’ out of harm’s way.
Currently, the game is only available on the internet and can be downloaded on computers since versions compatible to other gadgets like tablets and smartphones are yet to be made.