Dig­i­tal games em­pow­er­ing com­mu­ni­ties

Vuk'uzenzele - - Yoguetnhefroaclus - Dale Hes

PLAY­ING GAMES are help­ing a dis­ad­van­taged West­ern

Many peo­ple view dig­i­tal gam­ing as a hobby or past­time with­out much ed­u­ca­tional value but in the West­ern Cape the use of dig­i­tal games is emerg­ing as a rev­o­lu­tion­ary way to im­prove liv­ing con­di­tions in dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties.

Es­tab­lished by the Cape In­no­va­tion and Tech­nol­ogy Ini­tia­tive and funded by the West­ern Cape De­part­ment of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment and Tourism (DEDAT), the Se­ri­ous About Games ini­tia­tive sup­ports the de­vel­op­ment of games that en­cour­age learn­ing and so­cial change.

“Games make great tools for learn­ing. But un­like books and tele­vi­sion games they are im­me­di­ately in­ter­ac­tive,” said Ni­cholas Hall, CEO of In­ter­ac­tive En­ter­tain­ment South Africa, a part­ner in the project.

In 2016, a com­pe­ti­tion was lauched, call­ing for lo­cal game de­vel­op­ers to cre­ate a game that would help ad­dress so­cio-eco­nomic chal­lenges in the West­ern Cape. Out of 16 fi­nal­ists, the win­ner was an­nounced as Vukuzen­zele, an An­droid-based game which al­lows com­mu­ni­ties to learn about a con­cept called re­block­ing.

Re­block­ing refers to a com­mu­nity-driven process in which set­tle­ment lay­outs are re­designed to al­low bet­ter ac­cess for emer­gency ve­hi­cles and the pro­vi­sion of in­fra­struc­ture and ba­sic ser­vices.

Nokuthula Dlamini from Khayelit­sha is one of the com­mu­nity mem­bers who found the game ed­u­ca­tional af­ter play­ing it said that Vukuzen­zele gives com­mu­ni­ties the power to change their liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment for the bet­ter.

“Since I am now aware of how set­tle­ment lay­outs should be I can do it my­self all be­cause of the Vukuzen­zele game.”

The re­block­ing con­cept was de­vel­oped by non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion Ikhay­alami, which part­nered with soft­ware de­vel­op­ment com­pany Ren­derHeads to de­velop Vukuzen­zele. The game is now be­ing tested in the AT Sec­tion of Khayelit­sha on the out­skirts of Cape Town.

Andy Bol­nick, founder and man­ager of Ikhay­alami, said that 28 com­mu­nity mem­bers split up into teams of four and played the game.

“Each player in the team chooses two shacks to move and then re­po­si­tions them so even­tu­ally the en­tire set­tle­ment is re­con­fig­ured. The level of in­ter­est has been amaz­ing. By their own choice, each team spent 30 hours play­ing the game,” said Bol­nick.

From the seven new lay­outs cre­ated, the Vukuzen­zele team, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with DEDAT, chose three which they be­lieved would be most suit­able for im­ple­ment­ing the re­block­ing process in real life.

"This re­ally puts the lay­out of set­tle­ments in the hands of the com­mu­nity. They start to un­der­stand the lim­i­ta­tions and chal­lenges, and they get ex­cited by what their set­tle­ments could look like,” said Bol­nick.

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