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Building Empathy Through Technology

January 28, 2015

Video games are most often thought of as tools for escaping reality, not as a means to further explore current events. But at the University of Southern California, a team of students has built Project Syria, a virtual reality experience that allows players to better understand the effects of the four-year-old civil war in Syria.

The simulation uses video game technology, but with a very different purpose. According to Nonny de la Peña, head of Project Syria, the experience functions more as an “empathy generator,” a way to get students to connect on a deeper level to people and circumstances outside of their experience.

Project Syria is part of a wider genre of video games used to engage players with the news, or “newsgames.” For Project Syria, Peña and her team used actual footage from refugee camps and interviews with survivors to create an immersive experience and help student players understand the civil war more deeply . Read more about Project Syria and other newsgames and how they are giving students a deeper understanding of world events here.