Roméo Dallaire Initiative child soldier video game to help train peacekeepers

A new video game with a focus on dealing with child soldiers has been designed by students at Dalhousie University and will be used as a training tool for peacekeepers in Somalia.

Dalhousie Univeristity students designed game, which can be customized for other war zones

Mimi Cahill and Brian Yip are two of the students who helped design and program the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldier Initiative peacekeeping game. (CBC)

A new video game with a focus on dealing with child soldiers has been designed by students at Dalhousie University and will be used as a training tool for peacekeepers in Somalia.

Josh Boyter works with the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldier Initiative based at Dalhousie University and said the peacekeepers are used to reviewing training methods in a book or a document, but the video game will bring it to life.

"It's a real-world scenario and they are going to have a massive impact on how we deploy our training in incredibly complex issues around the globe," he said.

Boyter said by using the games and different training methods they are ultimately able to get soldiers to think far in advance of their mission.

The game features art work done by a local artist in Africa of scenarios peacekeepers would face. (CBC)

"Effectively think about, yes this child has a gun pointed in my face, I have to go through this roadblock, but are their ways to negotiate with them a little bit differently," he said.

Mimi Cahill is one of a team of students from Dalhousie's informatics program. She said the game will offer peacekeepers different scenarios on how to diffuse tense, potentially deadly situations.

"This is just a different way of presenting this information and hopefully, by engaging the peacekeepers with this game, you are giving them this deep and important information in a different way, instead of just handing them a document and saying please go over this before you need to go and deal with these conflicts or potential situations."

Eleven students from Dalhousie University wrote thousands of lines of code to build the video game. It took three semesters to finish the project and it can be customized for areas other than Somalia to deal with child soldier conflicts.

In the video game, depending on the situations and your reactions, the player might make the child soldier angry and you lose. The lesson taught is to try another approach.

The video game training tool will be used by peacekeepers in Somalia later this year.

About the Author

Colleen Jones

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World champion curler Colleen Jones has been reporting with CBC News for nearly three decades. Follow her on Twitter @cbccolleenjones.

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