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United Nations
World Food Programme


Humanitarian Protection and Accountability Training Game

A device frame for a PC
Sharmila explores a fantasy world with familiar problems. In Sharmila's world of Kaya, its population faces an oppressive darkness causing rising food insecurity, and as a result, raging conflict.

Sharmila is a training game created by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to help educate its employees and cooperating partners to better apply a humanitarian protection lens to their work and to improve accountability to affected populations.

WFP is the exclusive owner of Sharmila and all associated rights.
WFP does not endorse any commercial products or services.

We were presented with

The Objective

Implementing food and nutrition security programmes must take into account the specific needs and preferences of all segments of affected populations; recognizing that not everyone in need of assistance faces the same risks, nor has the same capacities to deal with them. Some people are in greater positions of vulnerability, and therefore need special attention when WFP designs and implements life-saving and life-changing programmes.

Due to the importance and complexity of the subject matter, WFP’s brief was to create a thoughtful and compelling experience for employees and partners to replicate high-risk protection scenarios (e.g. conflict, gender-based violence, competition for scarce resources) within a creative and simulated environment.

Sharmila’s goal is to create knowledge and awareness of the sometimes hard-to-grasp humanitarian protection and accountability concepts, in order to improve their application in WFP programmes.

That became

The Solution

Fiction as a Design Tool

It was imperative for the in-game content to reflect the myriad of real-life scenarios in WFP’s fieldwork while existing in a fictitious world - creating a 'safe space' where a player is free to explore relevant decision-making and learn the right and wrong answers to thematic questions.

Chaos Theory and game designer Dr. David Chandross helped bridge these requirements by working with WFP to create a cohesive fantasy narrative and gameplay systems that reflect the essence of WFP's real-world operations.
A screenshot showing gameplay from the game Sharmila, developed by WFP and Chaos Theory Games
A screenshot showing gameplay from the game Sharmila, developed by WFP and Chaos Theory Games

An Engaging Experience

Sharmila is a voluntary training experience that appeals to a diverse audience and keeps them engaged, often when working in difficult and stressful environments.

The game's novel format, compelling visuals, and diverse array of characters are all designed to capture attention and motivate staff to play the game; encouraging learning in an interactive and entertaining way.

The game's narrative, characters, and quests focus on evoking an emotional connection within the fictitious world. This inspires players to continue exploring new scenarios to assist Kaya’s inhabitants while learning about the protection risks people in crises often face, and how WFP can help prevent or mitigate risks by openly consulting with affected people and communities.

User Experience Testing

Chaos Theory championed the need for playtesting the game with end-users early in development to validate design decisions and refine the user experience to increase efficacy.

This proved to be invaluable as we gathered player data which led us to focus our efforts on simplifying the features that had already been implemented and streamlining the tutorial.
A screenshot showing gameplay from the game Sharmila, developed by WFP and Chaos Theory Games
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