A new interactive digital game allows players to become an avatar of their choice and act out as a character in an interactive novel, making either risky or safe lifestyle choices while dating and socialising ' virtually, that is. SwaziYolo is the brainchild of Bhekumusa Lukhele from Swaziland, a PhD candidate in medical science at the Kyoto University, Japan who developed it as part of HIV/AIDS education and prevention.
It's mobile-friendly, interactive and teaches young adults in Sub-Saharan Africa about HIV and AIDS prevention. The game has been designed and developed by Formula D interactive, a Cape Town-based interactive design agency on behalf Lukhele, the Kyoto University student.
'YOLO' in SwaziYolo takes its meaning from the popular acronym for 'You only live once'. In the game it is used to encourage young adults to live responsibly. Initially the game will be available in Swaziland and target students and young adults between 18 and 28 years old. Swaziland has the highest reported HIV prevalence in the world at 26%.
Once tested, it will be customised and taken to other African countries including South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya and Uganda. In South Africa the game will be named MzansiYolo.
'Interactive role-playing games are a great opportunity for people to not only learn about their own behaviour, but also to experiment with alternative behaviours, and experience causes and consequences in a safe environment. Serious games can simulate life-like situations and is a powerful way of learning.
'SwaziYolo is a story about relationships, that simulates a dating platform, where characters have their own profiles. They are then introduced by a family member to contacts with particular behaviour patterns, and have the option of getting to know these contacts better, socialise with them and finally have a sexual relationship with them - or not. HIV and AIDS education and prevention are woven into the story, but instead of the usual list of do's and don'ts, it engages players in discussions about HIV and AIDS.
SwaziYolo is age restricted and will be offered free of charge on Android devices.
The SwaziYolo initiative is funded by the Hayao Nakayama Foundation for Science & Technology and Culture in Japan. For more info go to www.yoloseriousgames.org, www.facebook.com/SwaziYolo or @SwaziYolo on Twitter.
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