07 March 2013

Half the Sky Movement: the Game - Beyond the Press Release

A new game released on Facebook wants to raise awareness about the challenges faced by women around the world. Half the Sky aims to be a movement about empowering girls and women worldwide, fighting gender discrimination and oppression.

"We don’t just want to preach to the choir, but rather to build the choir, so we were looking for ways to reach people who have no interest whatsoever in these issues," Kristof told Humanosphere.

The game has been met by praise as well as criticism, see below, of its portrayal of women living in poverty.

When writing the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, renowned New York Times columnist Nick Kristof said he also wanted a game to be part the movement he and his wife Sheryl WuDunn were trying to foment. The book prompted a TV documentary of the same name, but Kristof said he was inspired to make a game of it by the 2006 release of Darfur is Dying by MTVu.

Kristof stressed that the game is an experiment.

"One challenge is that here in the U.S. right now, I think the public is retreating from an interest in global affairs, so in that sense we may be sailing against the wind," he said. "My hunch is that the news media will have less coverage of global issues in the coming years."

In the midst of the genocide and atrocities committed in the Darfur region of Sudan, activists used the game Darfur is Dying to reach 800,000 people within a few months of its release. In one year the game was played by 1.2 million people worldwide. Players had to navigate a Sudanese refugee camp and learned about the problems faced by Darfuri's through play.

At the end, users were encouraged to send a message to a member of Congress and some 50,000 of the game's players took the advocacy step at the end of the game.

The release of Half the Sky the Movement: The Game this week is the culmination of three years of work by Kristof and WuDunn. With an estimated $15 million budget for their project, the movement is now turning to social media, gaming and video as a way to maintain momentum and bring in more advocates.