The Cost of Life

Ayiti, the Cost of Life is a game created by high school students in the Global Kids (Digital Kids Media Initiative Program), in partnership with developers from Gamelab (and supported by Microsoft’s partners in learning initiative, btw).  The game is hosted through Unicef, who also provided background on support for youth and education in Haiti, which forms the basis of the setting of the game.  In Ayiti, players participate as part of a Haitian family as they learn, work, and live.  The objective of the game is straightforward–help the Hatian family make decisions that will enable them to earn a living, help their kids become educated, and keep everyone healthy through different seasons and unexpected life occurrences over a period of 4 years.

As I played through several iteration of this game, I was struck by the complexity of balancing life in a small family in Haiti.  This experience highlighted just the challenge–you might say the cost–of life.  We take public education somewhat for granted.  It’s by and large free, and the system provides built-in opportunities to graduate.  In this simulation, education was most definitely not free.  Well, I should say you could take the cheap/free path but in Haiti, this far from guarantees an education.

Combine the costs to an individual family for education with a life of hard labor for those not educated with the costs of basic necessities, and you have conditions that promote sickness rather than wellness and promotes a struggle to live rather than an struggle to consume.

I found Ayiti very enlightening.  According to the game designers, there are win scenarios, although I haven’t yet learned enough to reach them.  Props to the game designers for coming up with such an engaging, important simulation that educates people, while raising awareness of poverty as well as the basic right to be educated.

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