updated 6/10/2005 7:30:27 PM ET 2005-06-10T23:30:27

The United Nations says it has a surprise hit with a video game meant to show just how cool humanitarian aid work can be.

"Food Force" puts gamers in command of a crack team from the World Food Program out to help the people of the fictitious island of Sheylan. Over six missions, gamers pilot a helicopter, negotiate a dangerous road and distribute nutritious food rations.

"The story we want people to go away with is that there are hungry people in the world and feeding them is more than a full-time job, and it's groups like WFP that do it," WFP spokesman Justin Roche said.

The free game, which cost about $300,000 and took three years to make, has been downloaded more than 1 million times in the six weeks since it first appeared in mid-April at food-force.com, the World Food Program said.

"Not one shot was fired — unusual in games these days," said John Powell, WFP deputy executive director for fund-raising and communications. "We've struck the right balance between entertainment, game play and communicating a global issue like hunger."

U.N. officials eventually hope to translate the English game into some of the U.N.'s five other official languages. They say the game has reached 40 countries so far.

The idea for the game came from WFP employee Paola Biocca, who died in a plane crash in 1999 in Kosovo.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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