Live Like a Refugee: The UN's Eye-Opening New App

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Photo: UNHCR

Make room on your smart phone between Shazam, Angry Birds, and Instagram for the most realistic “Survivor” story out there: The new app released by the United Nations’ High Commission for Refugees called “My Life as a Refugee.”

This easy-to-play, visually stimulating, interactive app includes all the war, natural disaster, rape, and murder of the most intense games. The only difference is that navigating this labyrinth of violence is what refugees all over the world have to do on a daily basis just to survive.

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Based on the lives of three characters, Merita, a 27-year-old married, pregnant mother of two; Paulo, a 15-year-old trying to avoid being conscripted as a child soldier; and Amika, a 24-year-old women’s rights activist, the app leads players through a maze of real-life situations each character faces as he or she navigates conflict and persecution forcing him to make tough decisions that might have disastrous consequences. In Paulo’s case

One morning rebels attack your village and round up the young men and boys your age. In the confusion you see a chance to escape. Do you: Stay behind with your brother? Leave him and escape?

The player gets 20 seconds to decide until the screen moves on to the next scenario, which occasionally spirals into a gloomy ending.

Photo: UNHCR

The project, rolled out as part of UNHCR’s “Dilemmas” campaign, was launched in conjunction with World Refugee Day. The intent is to, as one UN official says, “Raise awareness in a society that is increasingly complacent.”  Designed to be appropriate for any kid older than nine, the app also targets high school and college students to be used as a teaching tool “in a climate of rising intolerance toward refugees and asylum seekers.”  Using a backdrop of actual photography from refugee sites around the world, the UNHCR hopes that after players interact with the realistic scenes on the screen, they’ll visit the UNHCR website to find ways to take action or donate money.

Competitive types take note: With a little luck, your character can reach safety, but there are no real winners in this game.

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