30/07/2012 11:23 | By Stuart Dredge, contributor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

My Life as a Refugee: app of the day

UN-backed app aims to raise awareness of people fleeing war, persecution or terror.


My Life as a Refugee (© My Life as a Refugee)

What is it?
A game based on refugees, which might sound worryingly exploitative. This one has the backing of the UN Refugee Agency though: it's an attempt to make more people aware of the challenges that refugees face by stepping (virtually) into their shoes.

Coolest feature
Well, 'coolest' may not be the right word, but the app does make you think about the decisions that refugees have to make on a daily basis.

Platforms
iPhone / Android - Free - http://www.mylifeasarefugee.org/

Review

A game about refugees? It doesn't sound like a great idea. Potentially offensive, in fact.

The only previous example, an iPhone game called Smuggle Truck: Operation Immigration that involved carrying Mexicans across the border to the US, was rejected by Apple. The developer had to change the immigrants to animals, and the name to Snuggle Truck, to get it approved.

Rest assured, though, My Life as a Refugee isn't going to cause offence, although it may create a fair bit of anger at the challenges facing modern-day refugees.

It's the work of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, which is trying to raise awareness of its work. The game puts you in the position of three refugee characters.

Merita is 27, married and seven-months pregnant with her third child, fleeing a civil war. Paulo is 15, the eldest of four children, and trying to avoid being conscripted as a child soldier. Amika is 24, and has fallen foul of the authorities after speaking out about women's rights.

The game is fairly simple: you're presented with decisions to make for whichever character you're playing as, and have to answer them - sometimes within a tight 30-second time limit. Choose Your Own Adventure, except the adventure is pretty bleak and soul-destroying.

My Life as a Refugee (© My Life as a Refugee)

In truth, it's not much of a game - often you're simply told what happens next without being asked to make a choice. There's a lot of tapping through 'What happens next' buttons without much interactivity.

In this case, that's not a huge criticism, since you are taking in the stories and situations facing each character. Facts on refugees pop up at the bottom of the screen as you play, and at the end of a story, you can choose to 'Learn More' or 'Donate'.

Will My Life as a Refugee tempt you away from Pocket Planes, Angry Birds or Temple Run in the long term? No. Could it be more of a game? Yes.

But even so, the app's important messages hit home. Hopefully it will find its way onto the homescreens of people beyond existing supporters of refugee-related charities.

Four stars

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