03 February 2007

Ayiti: Socially Conscious Gaming

In the February issue of Marie Claire magazine, I found a link to a game called Ayiti: The Cost of Life. It was created by a group of high school students to illustrate how difficult it is for poor families to stay on top of finances, education, and health. It follows four years broken down into sixteen seasons, and you have to assign each of the family members a new task each season. Either they go to work, go to school, go to the hospital, or stay at home to rest. Random events pop up that will affect the family positively or negatively.

I'm a fan of the recent crop of casual games, and this has a similar style. It reminds me a bit of Lemonade Stand, in that the player makes all of the decisions at the beginning of the season and then watches how they play out. The difference is that the flavor text throughout the game made me think about consequences that a real family in Haiti would face without being preachy. There isn't a clear strategy to win this game, either. At the beginning, it gives you a choice of four strategies you can follow. However, if you play this game more than once you will see that it doesn't matter which strategy you pick -- getting ahead is difficult. If you choose to focus on any one element, you still have to worry about the other three. Just like real life.
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