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Saving Instead of Killing: Red Cross Collaborates with Fortnite to Spread Humanitarian Message

ICRC and Fortnite have a special project for gamers.
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Gaming has always been seen as a hobby at best, and a distraction and addiction at worst. But that hasn’t stopped the industry from exploding in popularity, so much so that even legitimate organizations have now begun thinking of ways of using it to promote good stuff to gamers. 

The latest example? The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has collaborated with the makers of popular video game Fortnite for a special project called Liferun. Red Cross and video games—now that’s something you don’t see often.

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Don’t kill, save

First, some context. Fortnite is one of the most popular shooting and survival games in the world, with around 250 million players globally, according to developer Epic Games. It’s a combat game with many game modes where generally, the goal is to survive using combat skills closely based on real-world warfare. So, ICRC and the American Red Cross thought of including special modes within Fortnite that will teach players real skills.

Instead of killing off other players, Liferun will make players go on rescue missions to save lives and rebuild schools and infrastructure. It includes four playable modes that will teach proper de-mining, delivering aid, restoring essential infrastructure, and healing civilians in an urban warfare scenario. It’s accessible via a special game code posted on the ICRC x Fortnite microsite.

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Two billion strong

Why embark on this unlikely collaboration? The ICRC hopes that by using an unintimidating and fun platform, it will be able to inform a large majority of the world’s population about what is really happening in actual battlefields. At the same time, it’s hoping Liferun can raise awareness about ICRC’s projects. After all, there are already about 2.2 billlion gamers worldwide. Yes, that number is not a typo.

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Of course, to promote a campaign that lives within a game, the ICRC had to do as the Romans do: It sought help from some of the world’s top Fortnite streamers. It launched the collaboration via a Twitch livestream event in Texas last January 19, powered by popular gamers such as DrLupo, Lachlan and ONE_Shot_GURL.

“We must engage the more than two billion gamers worldwide…and we know that many gamers are also current, past or future soldiers, army officers, armed group members, CEOs of companies, lawyers and political leaders,” said Jennifer Hauseman, ICRC’s director of communications and information management. “We need to talk to them in a smart and engaging way to explain that civilians suffer greatly in conflict.”

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Surprisingly, this isn’t the first time that ICRC has launched such an initiative. The first was a similar project focusing on international humanitarian law through the game Arma 3 back in 2017. With Fortnite being a much more popular game, ICRC hopes more gamers will become aware and concerned about issues concerning wars and armed conflicts.

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As video games continue to strive to achieve extreme realism with ever-better graphics and gameplay, we could be seeing more organizations and companies take advantage of the gaming industry’s immense reach to change the narrative on real-world issues. Will it be effective? Only time can tell. But it certainly won’t hurt to play around with the idea.

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Cyrian Agujo
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