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A Video Game That Teaches Battling Hunger, Not People

OPINION features excerpts of pieces by columnists from the Op-Ed page and other sections of The New York Times. All columns from the last seven days are available at nytimes.com; Op-Ed pieces (by columnists and outside contributors), plus Editorials and Letters to the Editor, are at nytimes.com/opinion. Please let us know what you think of OPINION at upfront@scholastic.com.

Last April, the UN World Food Program introduced Food Force, a computer video game to teach children about global hunger. One of a new category of peace games, it has become the most unlikely of cult sensations. No one shoots anyone in Food Force. Rebels are negotiated with, not blown away. Yet it has become the second most downloaded free Internet game, after the Army's recruiting tool, America's Army. The game is this: A fictional island has been ravaged by drought and civil war; millions of people need food. The player must airdrop food from a C-130; navigate a supply truck through land mines and guerrilla checkpoints; design a nutritionally balanced food package for the hungry; and use food to help rebuild a community. Food Force is an attempt to make people aware that one person dies of hunger every five seconds. It also tries to show that concrete steps can help, and that working on hunger is exciting and cool.

Tina Rosenberg [12/30/05]