Islamic Relief UK has launched a videogame with Ultimatum Games. It aims to teach young people how international aid works and to tackle negative perceptions of Muslims.
The game, Virtue Reality, is based on international development projects being run by Islamic Relief in more than 40 countries across the world.
It launched at the National Videogame Museum in Sheffield and is available to download on Apple and Google devices.
The launch has tied in with Charity Week, a fundraising campaign among Muslim students in the UK.
A statement from the charity reads: “Muslims are often not presented in a positive light in films, TV programmes or videogames – all too often presented as ‘the bad guys’. It also addresses a gap in the knowledge of the general public with regards to how foreign aid works.”
The game is an ‘idle clicker’ game. The user is invited to build projects such as shelters, boreholes and schools. As they click, the gamer accumulates enough ‘DeedCoins’, the game’s currency, to build the first phase of a project; “these DeedCoins reflect the good deeds that Muslims are expected to carry out as part of their faith”.
‘We are living in a political climate that is hostile to both aid and Muslims’
Judith Escribano, head of communications at Islamic Relief UK, said: “We see Virtue Reality as a solution to two challenges presented by society: scepticism of aid and increasing Islamophobia. We are living in a political climate that is hostile to both aid and Muslims.
“There is increased scepticism towards the charity sector, and often people do not understand that the work undertaken by organisations like Islamic Relief involves working with local people in poor countries to help lift themselves out of poverty. This game will teach both children and adults about the process of delivering aid and how the money donated is used. It will also show Muslims doing good deeds.”
Shahid Kamal Ahmad, managing director at Ultimatum Games, said: “Having worked in the video games industry for 37 years, I can’t help but notice that, as with the media and pop culture, Muslims are generally presented in a negative light in videogames.
“Often, when you see characters from the Islamic faith in videogames they are ‘other’ed’ as terrorists or villains you have to kill, usually dark-skinned characters shouting Allahu Akbar and carrying weapons. I haven’t seen people from my community portrayed in any other way in videogames. It is as though there is no other way for a Muslim to be: you never see any peaceful, ordinary Muslims just going about their lives.”
The videogame is also being launched in the US and Canada by Islamic Relief partners.