Online game about child trafficking released by Indian charity

Online game about child trafficking released by Indian charity
An Indian children's charity has released an online interactive game which aims to highlight the problem of child trafficking in the country.

RT.com decided the best way to get a feel for (UN) TRAFFICKED by Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation was to play it. At first, it looks like an artsy point-and-click adventure or a visual novel, complete with the necessary interface: dialogue boxes, selection prompts and even a health bar with 10 red hearts.

Players are asked to choose the 13-year-old girl's name and where in India she is from. This player chose the name “Maya” – reportedly the most common first name for Indian girls born in the US in 2004.

After choosing the name and location, Uttar Pradesh, the game begins. “You are about to follow a 13 year old girl in India over the course of a life-changing week,” it tells you. “The decisions you make will have an impact on her future.”

Maya is from a rural family in the region and is the eldest child of a poor family. Her family has been approached by a man from a “placement agency,” who offers to find a job for their eldest daughter. “Life here is a dead end. I know many girls like Maya in the city who are earning money and living their dreams. Don’t you want Maya to have a better life?” the agent says.

You are asked to put yourself in the position of Maya’s father and to make a decision: do you send your daughter away with the big city man? This player chose “NO,” which turned out to be the correct answer, and Maya was safe. Still, the game wants you to know what happens to the myriad other girls whose parents answered differently.

So Maya is taken to the city and away from her parents and friends – and the first two hearts from her “health bar” are gone.

Then, one of her friends remembers they have already seen the man that took her. “The same man took Aditi away last year. Remember? I haven’t seen her since,” a character, Geeta, says. The player is then asked to choose whether the friends should alert Maya’s parents. Again, nothing changes if you choose “YES,” with the parents just brushing the kid’s concerns aside.

The game then hits you with a fact: “EVERY 6 MINUTES A CHILD GOES MISSING IN INDIA.”

Maya’s story continues, and she is scared. “The man was nice when they set off but as soon as they left the village his attitude changed.” Maya is taken to the “placement agency” and left in isolation while the agent decides what to do with her. And there go two more of her “hearts.”

As the agent, you then get to choose whether to send Maya to work in a hairdressing salon or as a maid. This time, there is no correct choice: both options end up with the girl being abused sexually, either by the fake salon’s older clients or by the “man of the house” where she works as a maid.

Another fact follows: “EVERY HOUR 2 CHILDREN ARE SEXUALLY ABUSED IN INDIA.” Maya’s health counter keeps dwindling.

In both cases there arises an option to alert the police to what is happening to Maya… but the salon owner bribes them, and the domestic abuse is dismissed as “more trouble than it’s worth.”

And that is why, the game says, “IN 2015, THERE WERE 3,490 CHILD TRAFFICKING CASES BUT ONLY 55 CONVICTIONS.”

At which point the game leaves Maya with the last two hearts on the health bar, and the player with a feeling of hopelessness and revulsion. A stark effect, considering it is little more than 2D images and text.

More than 9,000 children, most of whom come from poor rural families, were reported to have been trafficked in 2016, a 27 percent rise from the previous year.