Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 22/05/2014

1000 Days of Syria


1000 Days of Syria is an online interactive story (or series of stories) by Mitch Swenson that is intended to raise awareness of the current Syrian civil war through the eyes of three fictional characters:

1000 Days of Syria is a text-based historical fiction game that timelines the first 1000 days of the Syrian uprising through interactive narratives. From the start of the opposition protests on March 15th, 2011 to the dismantling of Assad’s chemical stockpile on December 9th, 2013, 1000 Days of Syria seeks to illuminate the smaller stories of a civil conflict.

The impetus for the project was born out of a trip to northern Syria in late September, 2013. There I found that the war was not only vastly under-reported but also further reaching than I originally anticipated. I found that not a single person within Syria’s borders was left untouched by the violence. Even more disconcerting, however, was when I returned to the United States to find a pervasive lack of interest in the atrocities taking place in Syria and the rest of the Levant.

Coverage of conflict abroad may never overshadow news of Lady Gaga or Miley Cyrus, but if 1000 Days of Syria can at least inform and perhaps motivate an otherwise naive few, the mission of the game will have been a success.

In many ways, the following is an exercise in transmedia storytelling. Part electric literature; part newscast; and part choose-your-own-adventure, 1000 Days of Syria is as much about exploration of players within an architecture as it is about exploration of characters throughout a narrative.

It is important to know that as you navigate the nearly three-year chronology of the conflict, you will be asked to make decisions based on political, emotional, and economical climate. Many times, much like real life, there will not be perfect solutions to these complexities. The crisis in Syria is immensely complex and it is one that humanity has yet to solve. Please do not be dejected by this.

Although the characters here are fictional, their predicaments are very much real. The personalities and scenarios you will encounter have roots in the true accounts of those Syrians fortunate enough to tell them.

With that said, it is impossible to be perfectly accurate with these things. I apologize in advance to anyone who might be offended by the following narratives. My intention is neither to entertain players with, nor benefit from, the deaths that have resulted from the instability in Syria. In fact my aim is just the opposite. Sometimes the word “game” can be misconstrued into something that seems removed and reductive in the context of real life danger and death. In that way some might say that 1000 Days of Syria should not be considered a game at all, but rather an interactive education. That is for you to decide.

More so than ever before, reportage of the Syrian conflict epitomizes a shift in the way news is consumed in the modern era. My initial conclusions about reporting from the region was that reporters, for the first time, might be of better use from behind the computer than from behind the frontlines. This begs the question: how does one make an ultimate difference in the modern-day conflict?

It is astounding how much open source intelligence (OSINT) flows out of Syria everyday. So much, in fact, that there aren’t enough analysts to decrypt it all. 1000 Days of Syria is culled from that open source material. This is an attempt to make that ultimate difference. After exploring the following, I invite you to do your own sifting. You don’t know what you’ll find until you start searching.

Finally, at the bottom of the page, you can find information on the small ways to make an ultimate difference in Syria.

You’ll find additional details in this article in The Guardian.

Previously at PAXsims we’ve discussed other examples of interactive fiction being used to explore issues of conflict, humanitarian assistance, or development. An excellent example is Inside the Haiti Earthquake, an outstanding and very immersive online multimedia “choose your own adventure” in which participants assume the role of an aid worker, journalist, or earthquake survivor. You’ll find student feedback on it here.

I’ve also allowed students to complete interactive writing projects of their own, as an alternative to regular research papers (see examples here and here). Among the examples is Aleppo: Mother of All Battles, which also examines the Syrian civil war.


UPDATE (25/5/2015): There’s more on the game at War is Boring.

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