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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Katrina: Brought to You by Microsoft

Posted By on Thu, Oct 16, 2008 at 10:45 PM

For children who haven’t been traumatized enough by Hurricane Katrina, they now can explore the disaster in a side-scrolling virtual adventure:

Brought to you by the genius of high school students. From Brooklyn.

Developed by the nonprofit organization Global Kids and game designers Game Pill, Tempest in Crescent City follows a young girl through various neighborhoods as she rescues residents trapped in their attics, delivers first aid and batteries to her neighbors, dodges debris and swims through suspiciously clear floodwaters, all on her to way to save her mother. 

Global Green says Tempest “is meant to be a fun adventure game that also addresses meaningful, accurate and difficult historical situations.”

This, coming from an organization that published Ayiti: The Cost of Life.

It’s one thing to set aside reality to indulge in a little harmless, carefree video-game violence— but how do you bring reality back into the video game world when addressing recent matters of life and death?

Video game publishers have had success with games based on World War II, Desert Storm and even recent anti-terrorism campaigns, but so have Stephen Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks and the like with countless award-winning historical war films. But the action stays in the screen. You’re not expected to take up arms after piloting a Higgins boat to Omaha.

But will kids walk away from this game having learned anything? Is it really as educational as Global Green suggests? 

After all, children, especially those living in hurricane-prone regions, can learn basic hurricane preparation, like storing water and batteries, and a basic Katrina timeline with relevant factoids. But does it stick, or is it just another classroom activity?

Sure, I played Oregon Trail to death, but all I learned from playing it were the definitions of dysentery and calk. We covered its historical significance in social studies classes. But I’ve also never had to eat or travel Donner-style. Perhaps Tempest might have some current social relevance after all.

In terms of actual game play: It’s short, simple and the controls — arrow keys and space bar — take only a few minutes to get comfortable. At least the opening sequence saves the guilt trip.

Thanks to Richard Read, who gave the game somewhere around a B+.


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