Why You Should Watch This:

The international response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti is often remembered as being chaotic and ineffective, hampered by the massive devastation, poor coordination and communication, and the preexisting economic and political situation in the nation.

Most people around the world witnessed the aftermath of the disaster through television news or other media, watching the humanitarian effort unfold from a bird’s-eye-view. While the challenges of the situation were widely reported, the individual experiences of people on the ground are harder to convey.

Inside the Haiti Earthquake is a web-based interactive video simulation that allows users to experience the aftermath of Haiti’s January 2010 earthquake from the perspective of a fictional survivor, aid worker or journalist. In an innovative re-use of footage originally shot for a documentary film, the simulation re-presents real-life events in a fictional narrative that is determined by the user via a choose-your-own-adventure-style interface.

Screen shot uploaded by WITNESS on flickr
Screen shot uploaded by WITNESS on flickr

Video Facts:

Goal: The goal of the simulation is to educate the general public about the realities of disaster relief and recovery, to raise awareness of what is involved in providing humanitarian aid, and to encourage support for Haitians and humanitarian workers. While not an advocacy video per se, the form is effective for creating empathy and involving audiences.

Primary Audience: General public.

Message:  The immersive hand-held footage underscores the chaos of the situation, while interactive element of the simulation highlights the complexity of relief operations and unexpected consequences of well-meaning actions. All three narratives point up the need for coordinated and quickly adaptable strategies, and for local involvement and leadership. The overall message conveyed at the closing of each story was one of hope in the face of extreme obstacles.

Content/Style/Voices: The content of the simulation is re-mixed footage shot for the documentary Inside Disaster Haiti. The images are hand-held and shot with a wide-angle lens, giving them a close-up and immersive feel. The voice-over narrators speak directly to the user as if they were a survivor, an aid worker, or a journalist, and prompt the user to make choices to move the story along. In addition, there are interactive text elements that the user reads and clicks.

Did you know? The project has a web site with more information about Haiti and global humanitarian work.

Join the Discussion: Do you think this game is effective? Can video games be used to not only raise awareness, but also to create change? How? Please leave a comment with your thoughts below!

2 thoughts on “Video Advocacy Example: Using Video Games to Educate

  1. Video games can be excellent tools to educate. Just like in the above example of the Haiti Earthquake, video games can make excellent simulation and teaching tools. Military, racing, flying, and all sorts of other fields use video games as training tools and preparation guides for real life.

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