I've been more than a little critical of the United Nations in the past, but that criticism focuses mostly on the leadership and organizational culture of the world body. For all the corruption at the top, they still do quite a bit of good - and the World Food Program has found an innovative way to increase public awareness: Food Force.
Food Force is a Serious Game - software entertainment used for educational or instructional purposes. The concept has spawned a growing movement, appropriately called the Serious Games Initiative. It's a very diverse collection of professionals, ranging from university professors to corporate training gurus to game developers to the military. Serious Game mailing lists and discussion groups are springing up, and there's already a dedicated development track for Serious Games at the annual Game Developers Conference.
The WFP's Food Force puts the player in charge of relief missions to the fictional island nation of Sheylan. The missions themselves range from overhead action - flying helicopters and flying trucks - to logistic/economic strategy to SimCity style village/urban planning.
Is it the kind of AAA title you'd see on the store shelves down at EBGames? Well, no - although many of the Serious Games titles under development make use of off the shelf engines, or even began life as ambitious mods. But with the 'gaming metaphor' firmly entrenched with pretty much anyone under 30, gaming provides an excellent platform for transmitting information.
I had a teacher who told me that the best learning experiences are when the student forgets that he's in a classroom. Serious Games have the potential to sneak valuable educational time into a recreational setting.
Trick 'em into learning? Seriously good idea.