In a country where asylum seekers are labeled ‘boat people’ and frequently portrayed as a suspicious breed of invaders, could a video game have the power to change minds? Jens Stober, a game designer and RMIT student from Germany is aiming to do just that by humanizing the experience of being a refugee for game players.

In his new video game, players have the choice to be either an Australian border guard or an asylum seeker. Guards are given weapons to stop refugees from passing the border but the game forces players to think before acting, deducting points for killing.

Stober is interested in “how games can change the world or change opinion or help form opinions.”

The game counters the ‘video-games-cause-violence’ war, which has continued to pick up heat over the last few months, and could even be a way of addressing the issue of asylum seekers to school children.

The new game will be a modified Australian version of his previous game ‘Frontiers’ which focused on African asylum seekers in Europe. Stober has also caused a stir previously with another historically driven game, ‘1378’, released in 2010. The number indicates the length in kilometres of the so called ‘death strip’ dividing East and West Germany during the Cold War.

Online activist group ‘GetUp’ has already expressed their support of the game with national director Sam McLean commenting that it could be an effective way of “humanizing refugees and demonstrating their plight.”

Stober is researching and designing the game and expects to launch it in 2013. The game will be discussed today at the ‘Games for Change’ conference at RMIT University in Melbourne.

“We want to demonstrate that games are maturing… and you can address issues other than shooting people in the face… ‘Games for Change’ are broadening games as a cultural form,” says Dr Steffen Walz, Stober’s RMIT supervisor and the chair of the ‘Games for Change’ conference.

It’s an interesting and engaging approach to an issue that more Australians should be educated on. Take a look at the trailer for Jens Stober’s previous game ‘Frontiers’ to get better idea of the premise.

Words by Stephanie Squadrito
Photo by Bay Ismoyo for AFP via Getty Images

Via Sydney Morning Herald