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Learning about homelessness

October 19, 2007

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Graduate student Terry Lavender’s computer game Homeless: It’s NO Game is part of a learning kit offered to Vancouver area public schools this fall.

The learning kit is a collaborative effort of the British Columbia Federation of Teachers, the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Greater Vancouver Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness. It is being offered to Grade 6 and 7 teachers during Metro Vancouver’s Homelessness Action Week this week.

Lavender developed the game for a game-design class and made it available at www.homelessgame.net. The game, which has gained international media attention, follows the adventures of a young homeless woman as she tries to survive a day on the streets of Vancouver.

“I wanted to raise awareness of homelessness and to show people that homeless people are human beings, not clichés,” says Lavender, who is also the communications manager at SFU’s Surrey campus.

Since the game’s release in 2006, it has been named Best Videogame Made in Vancouver by the Georgia Straight, and been featured on MTV’s educational website, uMTV. Currently, Lavender is using the game as the basis of his master’s thesis on the effectiveness of videogames in changing attitudes.

“I am trying to see whether you can change attitudes towards issues such as homelessness using the medium of a videogame,” he says. “With their growing popularity, videogames could become a potent force for social change.”
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