Kenan Zekić and Penn Students Create Digital Game to Raise Landmine Awareness

Kenan Zekić and Penn Students Create Digital Game to Raise Landmine Awareness

Kenan Zekić, the Fullbright scholar visiting Penn State University from the International University of Sarajevo and Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, started a project whose goal is to raise awareness of still-buried landmines remained after the Bosnian War. Zekić came up with an idea for a digital game named “Mine Avoiders” that would improve school children’s awareness while also building technology literacy with augmented-reality and coding concepts.

“I want to reinforce kids’ knowledge while reminding them about the landmine dangers and how to improve their safety,” Zekić said. “At the same time, I also want to expose kids in underdeveloped areas to new and emerging technologies. The idea builds on my experiences from Bosnia and Herzegovina, but my aim is to develop a tool that could be used wherever we have landmines: Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia and other places.”

Zekić envisioned a game in which players must race against the clock and avoid obstacles to rescue a group of children who are trapped in a minefield. Players must hurry to the nearest Mine Action Center and retrieve help for their friend, avoiding landmines and unexploded ordinances along the way.

Last fall, Zekić shared his idea with Andrew Hieronymi, a Penn State School of Visual Arts (SoVA) faculty member who at the time was teaching a course about game art. Together, the three presented the idea to the students in AA310: Collaborative Studio and tasked them with building the game from scratch, with Zekić providing support and guidance along the way.

“The project is a great opportunity for our students to engage in creative research while collaborating with Kenan Zekić,” said Carlos Rosas, the member of SoVA and the collaborator in the project. “Students were really able to engage with the content, educational and cultural context, and project goals while having considerable influence over the overall design and gaming experience.”

Hieronymi says once the semester ends, he and Rosas plan to continue collaborating with Zekić to take the game from prototype to finished product. Zekić hopes it will eventually be available to the children in the landmine-affected areas, who will then have a better understanding of how to stay safe while learning something about new technologies.