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Abertay students help care watchdog and children's charities create new game

22 November 2013

Students from Abertay University have helped young people with experience of being in care develop a new computer game.

Far From Home is an online 3D adventure game made for the Care Inspectorate, Scotland's care watchdog.

The game explores themes of trust, consequence and unfamiliarity in an action-packed and strange alien world.

The plan is to help young people who play it engage with issues they experience in their own personal journey through care, and support young people to understand their right to good quality care.

The game's star, Sid - a blue-headed alien - was originally conceived by young people as a fun and friendly character to engage with youngsters living in care and to help discuss their rights under Scotland’s National Care Standards.

The Care Inspectorate worked with young people from Who Cares? Scotland and the Aberlour Childcare Trust to develop the ideas behind Sid into a full-scale game.

Game design students at Abertay University turned those ideas into a fun and visually stunning reality.

Annette Bruton, the Care Inspectorate's Chief Executive, said:

"Promoting the rights of young people in care, and helping them understand what they can expect from the services they engage with is hugely important.

"Finding new ways to explore those ideas is a tremendous challenge, and this computer game is a brilliant, innovative way to do that. It is fun, it's smart and the themes it explores are really important.

"We want to show young people that if you make the right decisions in life, you will not only protect yourself from harm but also get where you want to be.

"All of the team behind Far From Home should be proud of the excellent work they have done."

The game will help young people explore trust and the consequences of making a poor decision.

The game is set in the outskirts of an alien city where characters can either help or hinder Sid to find items to repair his damaged spacecraft so he can return home.

One of the young people with experience of life in care who helped design the game is David Miller, 25, from Glasgow.

David was in care for five years from the age of 14.

David said:

"I think that it's really important that everybody in care understands that they have rights, like a right to privacy for example.

"I didn't know that privacy was my entitlement. I think it's so important that children get to understand that.

"I'm a gamer myself. I think the game would appeal to a young audience who may think they're just playing a game but actually there are really good messages that come across in it."

Professor Louis Natanson, who leads computer games education at Abertay University, said:

"The Abertay students on this project should be very proud of what they've achieved in collaboration with the Care Inspectorate and the young people they consulted.

"They have approached a challenging, sensitive topic with great maturity, using a game to help young people in care think about their rights, their situation and how they can make positive choices to empower themselves.

"Games can be easily overlooked as just a form of entertainment, but projects like Far From Home help to show how technology can engage people with very complex issues."

Duncan Dunlop Chief Executive of Who Cares? Scotland added:

"This is a fantastic example of empowering children and young people to understand their rights through the power of play. Designed by young people, for young people, this shows how the talents and imagination of young people can influence positive change.

"We value the partnership with the Care Inspectorate which has offered us the opportunity to ensure that young people's voices remain at the centre of innovative influencing initiatives."

Gavin Leitch, Assistant Service Manager with the Aberlour Childcare Trust, said:

"The project's worked really well. It's not easy for some young people to talk about their experiences and to get involved with things like this. It's helped to build their confidence and given them new skills in group working, project work and so on.

“The game is fantastic - I'm really impressed. The films are powerful too. And everyone at Aberlour loves the new website.”

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