Play on to improve cultural relations

April 27, 2007

A game designed by academics at Portsmouth University aims to help overseas students settle into UK life and cope with cultural shocks such as seeing people kissing in public, smoking and drinking alcohol, writes Melanie Newman.

Nipan Maniar and research assistant Emily Bennett hope that students will download their C-Shock game to their mobile phones before they arrive in the country.

The game follows an international student arriving in the UK. Its object is to reduce the character's "culture shock" rating from 100 to zero by performing tasks.

The game uses everyday images of real places in the UK, as opposed to glossy photographs, to give students a realistic representation of the environment in which they will live.

Based on the scenario of the first day at university, the player is shown a map of the campus and is given a series of tasks that require the person to find specific locations.

Clicking on some images, such as beer bottles, will warn the player what to expect: for example that it is acceptable for students to drink alcohol, but that smoking is less socially acceptable than drinking.

The game includes information such as emergency telephone numbers.

Dr Maniar and Dr Bennett, both part of Portsmouth's faculty for cultural and creative industries, developed C-Shock after consultation with the university's international office and the British Council.

Dr Maniar, who is originally from India, said: "The concept was inspired by my experience as an international student in the UK.

"I found some aspects of British culture very novel, and certainly things such as interacting socially with others in, say, a pub were very different to what I was used to in my own culture.

"I thought it would be great to have a learning vehicle or device to help people overcome the culture shock."

Dr Maniar, who expects universities' use of mobile phones to communicate with students to increase, said: "C-Shock could be used to guide students through events such as registration and graduation as well as to help them with basic necessities such as navigating to a bank, a restaurant and other places of interest within a city."

The game is in the final stages of development. It will be available for download this year.

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