AIDS prevention videogame to be distributed in Nairobi

Playing Far Cry 2 makes me feel a little guilty. It’s an amazing game, but setting a shooter in the middle of tribal warfare in Africa commodifies a real problem. Yes, the protagonist is working to stop the arms dealer perpetuating the conflict, but the player spends most of the time killing the people he is supposedly working to save. I understand why Ubisoft made a realistic game, I just find playing a shooter in Africa to be a little troubling.

So I was pleased to find out about Pamoja Mtaani, a new “serious game” that doesn’t merely take advantage of world events, it actually works to fight a major problem.

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment partnered up with Virtual Heroes to develop Pamoja Mtaani, a free new multiplayer game designed to educate youths about HIV. The plan is to distribute the game throughout youth centers in Nairobi, Kenya as part of a broader initiative organized by the Partnership for an HIV-Free Generation.

From statements WBIE has released, it seems as though Pamoja Mtaani is a game about five strangers who have each lost something valuable working together to recover the items. Along the way, the strangers explore east African neighborhoods, find out how their lives are interconnected, and help an injured old woman. Sounds pretty hearty.

Early reports say the game looks pretty good, but I am a little doubtful. Virtual Heroes is responsible for America’s Army: True Soldiers for the 360, a wannabe GRAW that received this criticism from IGN: “It’s the kind of game that makes you want to write 43 and a half pages of cuss words, slam your head on your desk 13 times and hope and pray that you don’t remember having ever played it when you wake up.” Oof.

I don’t mean to be skeptical, especially when there aren’t many details about Pamoja Mtaani available. Serious games are a budding idea with huge potential, and anything that helps prevent the spread of HIV deserves our support. I just don’t know how much I trust Virtual Heroes to develop a winner. Here’s hoping that I’m wrong.