Serious games to help find missing kids

UK university project to be launched this week will allow people to use their cell phones to help track down abducted children.

NEWPORT, Wales--PlayStation 3 users who sign up for Folding@home are helping to cure cancer, and now mobile phone owners will be able to use their gadgets to help locate missing children.

Professor Lizbeth Goodman, director of Smartlab Digital Media Institute at the University of East London, has been working on the technology for a serious game project called Lost & Found for "many years." The project was announced as part of the Women in Games 2007 event this week at the University of Wales.

Lost & Found--described as "a portable system to track missing and exploited children (and adults)"--works by using GPS and mapping technology within mobile phones. For example, users can sign up for alerts when someone goes missing in their area, and if they see someone who resembles a missing child, they take a photo, which will alert authorities to the possibility that an abducted child is nearby. The game will also present people with a series of objectives and mobilise groups to block roads and search fields.

Approximately 800,000 children go missing in the US each year, as well as 77,000 in the UK. Current efforts to trace those missing children (as well as adults) are a good start, believes Goodman, but also ultimately forgettable. She said, "When you're drinking your milk in the morning, there's always a picture of someone who is missing. But who can remember what the person on your milk carton looks like at the end of a busy day?"

When asked why the project is being classified as a game, Goodman said, "If it's a project that sounds worthy, or that there are cops involved, or that you have to hand over personal data, people aren't interested. But if we let them use an avatar, they're OK with that." The Web site adds, "Participants can see their own input...achieving success in finding lost community members, and [it will] change the nature of play, and the sense of responsibility it entails."

Partners for the Lost & Found project currently include the BBC R&D, Microsoft Research, The UK Serious Crimes Unit, and The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (US).

When asked about the possibility of privacy concerns and the "Big Brother" issues raised by this kind of technology, Goodman told GameSpot, "Obviously we are very concerned about these issues as well, which is why it's taken so long. Lost & Found is all based on existing technologies. These technologies are already out there, so the way I see it, we may as well use them for good."

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Discussion

170 comments
Joker_Wylde
Joker_Wylde

This may have already been said, but a lot of "Kidnapping" incidents are when children of divorcing parents decide to stay with the father while residence is being determined. It is their right to stay with whoever they choose, and I don't think that criminalising the other parent, or involving hundreds of people to make a judgement that isn't theirs to make is a very moral thing to do. The law isn't so black and white, and game designers have no place in clarifying it.

theKSMM
theKSMM

Why did Minority Report pop into my head when I read this?

PacoL250
PacoL250

Not sure if this will help too, too much, but as long there aren't very big privacy issue, any little bit will always help. But this shouldn't be the only solution to helping find missing kids.

the_real_VIP
the_real_VIP

"Please! Somebody! Think of the kids!" - Moe Szyslak (The Simpsons).

Mr_Saturn26
Mr_Saturn26

i like the idea of sending the missing child photo to the phones, but not the objectives. ding, ding Phone recived adjective to block the road, 2 hours later, u have achived bonus points for being arrusted for doing the objective.

comthitnuong
comthitnuong

I highly doubt that this would be a suitable solution to missing kids.

white_baller86
white_baller86

I like that "change the nature of play" note, as it seems these guys care about games, despite what most of you seem to think. Why else would they be trying to bring gaming into the realm of real possibility and as a valid artistic medium, like film, writing and music that can bring people into serious participation with society? So many gamers complain about not being recognized in the same light as movie-goers or people who listen to music - you'd think that this game is a step in the right direction.

gamenux
gamenux

Here's an idea; HOW about making a fun game to fight "gaming addiction"?

gamenux
gamenux

I hope this game flops (big time) cause if it is fun, then everyone gonna be playing games instead of out looking for missing kids. :) Everytime, I get hooked on a game, I would stay up for days playing it and never go outside. Unless that missing kid is playing counterstrike in my room, I doubt I will notice it.

lalalamoo
lalalamoo

sounds awesome. I don't know about you guys, but I'd be ****ing myself if I were a kidnapper; can you imagine kidnapping a kid, then right after seeing hundreds of people around getting info on you and the kid? I hope this works out

TheUnionFrag
TheUnionFrag

Marketing gimmick aimed at the moral if you ask me . . . good idea if they can pull it off, especially with some big names on there like the BBC, UK SCU and NCMEC, but they'll have to prove it to me first.

bloodyrooster
bloodyrooster

I think this is actually a pretty good idea. It's better than giving a child some pepper spray and hoping they have a chance.

sandy4v
sandy4v

a small step for a very big purpose but I am glad they started

wiidominance
wiidominance

man .. u guys are noobs... this idea is great, and I hope it works out well, it will help to increase the good reputation of the video games industry ... you guys should support this .

GreenGoblin2099
GreenGoblin2099

Missing children = kidnapped. This news = crappy idea.

joshuahaveron
joshuahaveron

Why would they be wondering round the streets if they're lost they'll go to a policeman or person of authority and if theyve ran away they'll soon go back home and if they've been kidnapped they won't be seen in public so i don't see a reason for this and as a game it's no where near a game and it would need many participants to be effective, and I don't think that'll happen.

TrumpyTheDog
TrumpyTheDog

"JSharpe_187: 800,000 US kids go missing every year? How many stupid kids are there in the U.S.? " If you've ever played Halo or Gears on XBL you'd know that there must be millions, all screamed "OWned"

The_MrB
The_MrB

I think it's a great idea to send photos of missing children to cell phones and whatnot, but the idea of twisting it into a game just seems strange and a little disturbing. This is a serious issue that doesn't and shouldn't be twisted into some sort of game to try and make it more appealing.

R3DN1N3
R3DN1N3

I don't know.....sounds like Big Brother to me. This technology seems like a good idea now but I have a bad feeling it's gonna be used against the public later on by the government. I don't trust this, even if it means we can find these kids.

Dogswithguns
Dogswithguns

Awesome idea!!.....Hope it works, it should, missing kids need our help!! I have two kids myself.

Gamer-Addict
Gamer-Addict

:shock: Wow what an amazing idea :shock:

Gamer443
Gamer443

i say lets do it help the cause

DeadBullet
DeadBullet

Great idea, I hope it works too.

Warfust
Warfust

I like the idea, and I hope it works.

waleywu_basic
waleywu_basic

all I have to say is, that phone in the picture? that's MY phone. lol

BlueDemon3
BlueDemon3

i don't know how well it will work but i hope it does!

Slash_out
Slash_out

Yeah so, everyone is watching you huh ?

PiMacleod_basic
PiMacleod_basic

way too much time?! I don't think a single 'gamer' posting on GameSpot can talk about 'way too much time', when a good 90% or more of us have logged 'way too much time' into a MMORPG at some point, or any FF game, or those millions of Halo 2 online games, or GoW online games.....etc, etc. Way too much time, indeed.

stixes14
stixes14

they have way to much time on there hands but this is COOL!!!

NoisyAssasin
NoisyAssasin

Alternatively, this could be a valuable resource to predators looking for vulnerable people to prey upon. I think this kind of thing requires more thought.

ChitoKiryoku
ChitoKiryoku

I think it's a good idea. Gamers like games, and this game also helps people. Think about the completionists who'll try to save every kid ^^

Fax_Modem
Fax_Modem

I find it worrying that they call this a "game". That is just false labeling and I frankly find it a little repulsive to reduce real peoples misfortune to a game. I can appreciate what they are trying to do but please don't call it a game. ...and why on Earth do we want to "change the nature of play?"

DeltaSpirit
DeltaSpirit

Nice idea but i can't believe it came at a gamers event o well a games a game so i'm going to find so many kids

Droynas
Droynas

"To: JSharpe_187" "he wrote:800,000 US kids go missing every year? How many stupid kids are there in the U.S.?" I'm sorry but what's wrong with you?? Do you really think that KIDS(!!) have the power to stop a fullgrown man? Or were you smart when you were 2 y/o? Come on think a little before posting plz...

Lumenadducere
Lumenadducere

I think it's pretty bad to be calling a search for missing children a "game" and it seems that Goodman is a little off in thinking that it's going to lead to an increased number of subscribers. "Participants can see their own input... achieving success in finding lost community members, and (it will) change the nature of play, and the sense of responsibility it entails." WTF? Changing the nature of play...riiight... And yes, 800,000 does seem a bit high.

PlaystationNoAi
PlaystationNoAi

Although it seems like they have good intentions its probably not a good idea... I dont think I would trust the average person out there looking for my kid. Especially if they think its a "game". I wouldnt be surprised if some kids are kidnapped by accident by some idiot trying to save the day and finding the wrong child. Their hearts are in the right place but their heads aren't.

MrGrime
MrGrime

I really doubt 800,000 children go missing each year, that's just crazy.

80style
80style

i think thats wrong, to call it a game

Slappywhite2001
Slappywhite2001

i'm pretty sure those statistics are a tad bit false. aside from that, a good idea. help in every way possible.

fxmldr999
fxmldr999

I'm sure every little bit will help.

Evanrocknuma
Evanrocknuma

This might drop the numbers by a couple percent I dought this move will help much... I guess it is all worth it though so nobody in their right minds should be against this unless you kidnap kids of course and in that case get a life creeps (micheal jackson this means you too.)

JSharpe_187
JSharpe_187

800,000 US kids go missing every year? How many stupid kids are there in the U.S.?