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New Video Game Aims to Help Children of Addicts

Papo y Yo is based on the game creator's own experience of growing up with an addicted father.

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"Quico" and his abusive pal, "Monster."
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By McCarton Ackerman

08/16/12

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A new video game, Papo & Yo, may resonate for children of addicts, and even help them navigate their own real-life struggles. In the game, a boy named Quico and his inseparable pal Monster traipse through a lush fantasy world. But Monster is often confused and destructive and, after eating too many frogs, he sometimes transforms into a real monster who beats Quico. Game creator Vander Caballero has admitted he based the characters on his own experience growing up in South America with an alcoholic and drug-addicted father, and he hopes the game will help kids who share similar struggles. "The only way you can create empathy in video games is through interaction." says Caballero. "I want players to feel what I felt as a kid and the only way I could achieve that was by creating game mechanics that let you interact and develop relationships as you play." The question at the heart of the game becomes how to handle Monster, and even more difficult, how to handle the memories of the damage Monster inflicts—even long after the harm has been done. Caballero says his goal with the game is to create player empathy with the interactions between the characters, such as showing Quico how to carry coconuts around to guide Monster along. The atmosphere of the game is also intended to be comforting—depicting dilapidated, yet beautifully sunlit favela-scapes accompanied by trance-like tunes. In a far less comforting portrayal of addiction, another video game on the market, Max Payne, guides players from the perspective of an addict himself.

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