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Humanitarian game offers fun — and a message

From wire reports

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.

TiVo boosts portable video service

A new extension to TiVo Inc.’s portable video service will let mobile subscribers watch pre-recorded television shows on Windows-based handheld devices.

Until now, owners of the TiVo Series2 digital video recorder with the company’s $12.95 monthly service could transfer their TiVo shows to Windows-based computers including laptops.

With the change, they can watch recordings on Windows Mobile-based Portable Media Centers, smart phones and Pocket PCs as well.

“By extending the TiVoToGo service to support multiple Windows Mobile-based devices, TiVo is enabling our subscribers to watch their favorite TV shows whenever and wherever they want,” said Matt Wisk, TiVo senior vice president and chief marketing officer.

TiVoToGo is still incompatible with portable devices running PalmOS or Linux, said Jim Denney, TiVo’s director of product marketing.

He said the company may make those systems compatible at some point.

TiVo has more than 3.3 million subscribers using its machines, which unlike VCRs allow viewers to pause live TV and begin watching shows before recording ends.

Rush begins podcasts

Just in time for Father’s Day, Rush Limbaugh’s subscription-based fan club is offering the talk show host’s programs as MP3 downloads.

The feature, which is also described as podcasting, has been added as a benefit for members of Limbaugh’s $49.95-a-year “24/7” club.

The availability of Limbaugh’s shows is evidence that the podcast trend “is advancing at incredible speed as more marketers and media owners incorporate it as an extension of the radio business,” AdAge.com reported.

Limbaugh’s show is one of several his program distributor, Premiere Radio Networks, is making available for downloads. Premiere also has, without announcement, begun podcasting the Glenn Beck and Phil Hendrie shows.

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