Every 26 seconds a girl goes missing. This isn’t the premise of a new sci-fi thriller. Instead it’s a very real and very troubling statistic. One which prompted artist and activist Leena Kejriwal to seek new ways of raising awareness for the victims. Her first attempt to leverage technology for social impact saw the development of MISSING: Game for a Cause. Now, she’s reaching out to Kickstarter backers to help fund a 3D RPG follow-up, MISSING: The Complete Saga.
Seeking $50,000, the new project lets players experience the life of an impoverished girl growing up in the rural Indian countryside. Champa is a brave and playful young child at the beginning of the game. Players will make choices that affect the skills and aspirations she grows up with. All while under the looming threat of sexual exploitation from the woman traffickers who frequently attack her village.
The developers have designed Champa’s experience to be unique depending on the options players choose. This allows players to have vastly different experiences as the story unfolds. Players help Champa attempt to avoid becoming a sex slave, but even if they fail, the story continues.
Real Choices, Real Consequences
In order to authentically describe the harsh realities faced by trafficking victims, the developers have interviewed survivors through the MISSING Public Art and Awareness Campaign in West Bengal. According to the Kickstarter campaign, 42% of all cases of trafficking in India occur in this state. Proceeds from MISSING: The Complete Saga will be donated to the Public Art and Awareness Campaign to help save more girls from this horrific fate.
Kejriwal hopes that the immersive nature of the game will help bring empathy to the plight of these girls. More than traditional media can convey.
“I thought a game would be an excellent way to engage the public as it would be immersive, and more powerful than just going and watching a film. In a film you watch a story play out while in this game you would be playing as the main protagonist by getting into the shoes of a trafficked victim, you would be responsible for her future and experience her helplessness and frustration first hand”
Not All Fun And Games
It’s easy for such social activism games to fall into the trap of feeling preachy and uninteresting. Fortunately, MISSING: The Complete Saga maintains a strong focus on the gameplay elements that keep players engaged. Players maintain an inventory and are able to increase their skills through a skill tree. As Champa grows up, the gameplay evolves along-side her. From casual, twitch-style games in her youth to a focus on resource management and stealth based mechanics later in her life.
While the mechanics aren’t enough to make a game about a young girl sold to a brothel ‘fun’, they do keep players engaged in the experience. Hopefully, the increased awareness and understanding MISSING: The Complete Saga generates can help save more girls like Champa.