By Anuradha Nagaraj
CHENNAI, India, Nov 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The mission is to save a teenage girl's life. The weapons are informed choices and taking a stand, while at the end the player is asked to take a pledge to help children in real life.
In "(UN)TRAFFICKED", a new Indian online game, the aim is to prevent a 13-year-old girl from being trafficked into child slavery.
The interactive story puts players in the shoes of parents, policemen, agents, school friends and others whose choices "alter the course of her entire life in seven days".
The game aims to raise awareness of the problem of child trafficking, according to a statement from the Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation, which developed the online adventure.
"The idea is to decode and simplify trafficking and what is happening to children across the country," said an official at the foundation.
"We want people to be able to spot this in their environments and then do something about it."
The online game was unveiled in October, at the culmination of a month long march against the trafficking and sexual abuse of children, organised by Satyarthi.
Between asking the player if as a father they would send their daughter to work or as a friend would they alert the parents, the game also lays out the hard facts about child trafficking in India.
More than 9,000 children, largely from poor rural families, were reported to have been trafficked in 2016, a 27 percent rise from the previous year, according to government data.
Most are from poor rural areas and are lured to cities by traffickers who promise good jobs, but in many cases, they are not paid or are held in debt bondage. Some are found, but many remain missing.
In unfolding levels of the online game, players are shown how girls are lured to cities by traffickers who promise good jobs, but then sell them into slavery as domestic workers, to work in small manufacturing units, farming or into sexual slavery in brothels.
The game highlights the fact that the player's choices may challenge norms in socially conservative India, where fear of being blamed, shamed or stigmatised means victims and their families often keep quiet and do not report abuses.
Available in Hindi and English, the makers are looking to offer the game in other languages and introduce more storylines in the future.
(Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)
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