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International Peace Day: Mobile game GetH2O 2.0 tackles problems in urban Africa in a fun way


GetH2O, a mobile phone game co-created with designers in Kenya and the Netherlands reaches 20 countries worldwide online and offline. The GetH2O game is a serious and fun game about community development and conflict prevention and is being promoted in 4 African countries online and offline for International Peace Day on the 21st of September 2011 by Butterfly Works, social design studio in the Netherlands.

Inline with the recent wave of Games for Change whereby the help of gamers is enlisted to solve some of the world's biggest problems, the aim of the GetH2O game is to create awareness about life in informal settlements, where 1 billion people live, that's 1/6th of all humanity.


Situated in a slum, the game deals with issues of water scarcity, crowded housing, crime and corruption, the players in the game aim is to build 6 houses and keep the community bar in the green. However not only can the player choose to build their own houses, they can also build community hospitals, schools and toilets for the benefit of the whole community.


Experiences in Uganda and Nigeria have shown that similar issues affect the urban populations. Some 1 billion people around the world live in informal settlements due the current rush to the cities in search of work and a better life. Yet upon arrival things are often tougher than expected.


Playing the game leads to lively discussions about the issues experienced on a daily basis in many cities in Africa, cities which are growing rapidly with the service level remaining far behind. The lack of  basic services also regularly leads to conflicts, which is why the game also deals with this issue.


While games are often knocked as being about violence this is a game which contributes to social behaviour, gamers often play in groups to discuss how to improve life conditions or visit the facebook group to post their ideas.


What started in Nairobi and Amsterdam as a co-creation project on issues of poverty and peace has led to this mobile phone game which works across Nokia style phones which are hugely popular in African cities. Currently in Kenya 95% of people who access the internet do that with a mobile phone.  The game has been downloaded more than 40,000 times in only two months and the Android version of the game is in development for the growing number of android phones coming on the market.


On Wednesday the 21st of September, which is International Peace Day, gamers in Nairobi, Kampala, Johannesburg and Amsterdam will be playing the GetH2O game and exchanging ideas with each other via the GetH2O facebook group. While people in Uganda can text GAME to 8282 to get the game to their phone and then call in to the Capital FM radio discussions about the game.


Going forward, issues in slums are just one issue that the social design studio Butterfly Works is tackling with a game, currently in development are new games on women's issues and combating illiteracy.

  • Product: a serious mobile game called GetH20 (get water)

  • Downloads: 40.000 supported by GetJar and Nokia's Ovi store

  • Top country downloads: Nigeria, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, India & Vietnam and some 20 other countries.

  • Developed by: Dutch and Kenyan designers.

  • Live game gatherings: Happening on the 21st with young people in Uganda, Kenya, South Africa   and the Netherlands.

  • Themes: Life in a shanty town (slum or informal settlement) water scarcity, crowded housing, crime, redeployment, corruption, conflict escalation, and of course community development.

  • Aim: Create awareness and discussion of life in informal settlements to help improve the situation.

  • Populations: 1 billion people live in slums (1/6 of all humanity)

  • Published by: Butterfly Works in the Netherlands

  • Video story:

  • Gameplay:

  • High res photos:



GetH20 Game - Game Play on Mobile from Butterfly Works on Vimeo.

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