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University academics develop mobile phone game to help overseas students deal with culture shock of life in Britain

A mobile phone game developed by academics at the University of Portsmouth will be used to help international students cope with 'culture shock' and university life in Britain - including moments of cultural awakening such as going to the pub and watching people being affectionate to each other in public.

The game - called C-Shock - is the brainchild of University of Portsmouth academic and games technology expert Nipan Maniar who, himself, arrived in the UK from India five years ago as an international student.

Nipan said the game would act as an 'e-mother' or 'mobile mummy' for new students.

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

"I thought it would be great to have a learning vehicle or device to help people overcome the culture shock because if you have not experienced such things before, it's hard to know how to react or behave appropriately."

Nipan and his research assistant, Dr Emily Bennett, developed the prototype of the mobile phone game after consulting with the University's International Office and the British Council.

The game follows an international student arriving in the UK for the first time. The aim of the game is to reduce the character's 'culture shock' rating from a default of 100 to zero by performing a series of tasks that introduce culture shock-inducing incidents and images.

The game's opening scenario is a student's first day at university in the UK. The student is shown a map of the campus and is given tasks to find specific locations. Clicking on images along the way warns the student about what to expect in terms of culture shock - for example, it is acceptable for students to drink alcohol and it is okay for people to display affection in public.

The game also includes important information such as police and emergency telephone numbers.

Nipan expects the idea of using mobile phone games technologies to communicate with students to be adopted by other universities in the UK.

"C-Shock could be used to guide students through events such as registration as well as help them with basic information like getting to a bank or ATM that's closest to them. You could incorporate a whole city guide into the game so, in effect, the new student has this interactive learning tool to quickly settle into a new city very quickly," Nipan said.

"Using mobile phone games to communicate with people and educate in this way is a new concept, and the potential is limited only by one's imagination. I expect many other universities will follow suit. The ability to generate revenue from in-game advertising is also a significant factor in why this type of application would be attractive to organisations in the private sector as well."

The game is in the final stages of development and is expected to be available for download from the University of Portsmouth website later this year.

Rajiv Maharaj | alfa
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