New video game offers chance to experience life on Chicago's South Side

FOX 32 NEWS - A new video game offers gamers the chance to experience life in some Chicago neighborhoods that have been plagued by violence and poverty.

The Chicago-based company that created "We are Chicago" hopes it leads to some long-term solutions to those problems.  Michael Block and his team at Culture Shock Gaming  worked for four years to produce the gaming experience. Players  assume the role of a teenager named Aaron,  then make their own choices on how to  cope with violence and issues at home.

"You can think of it like a 'Choose Your Own Adventure' book, where you're saying, 'Hey, I think this person's going to act aggressively towards this person, so I'm going to say something aggressive,' or 'I'm going to react in a helpful way,' or  something like that," Block said.

The game does have some violence, for example, people getting punched, but as to whether anyone is shot and killed, well, Block said he does not want to give away any of the plot lines. Research for the game included interviews with South Side residents to give the scenes an authentic feel. Many of the conversations were written by Tony Sterling, who was born and raised in Englewood.

"Life in Englewood is pretty much what it was when I grew up in the 1960's and the 1970's," Sterling said. "We had to fight or run then. We had to make what could have been life or death decisions every day."

Michael Block calls "We Are Chicago an "empathy game,"  in which players are put in thought-provoking situations which require more than a shoot-and-kill mentality  to succeed.

"For us, a big part of the game is trying to build awareness about what's happening, build empathy with people who are living in these neighborhoods," Block said.

The game will be available on Steam for $14.99 starting in February.