Middle East

A virtual endgame for 22-month-old war

A screenshot from "Endgame: Syria," developed by Auroch Digital.

BEIRUT: Are you ready to guide rebel forces to crush the regime of President Bashar Assad? “Endgame: Syria,” a simulation created by British-based company Auroch Digital, offers players the opportunity to do just that, as questionable as that might sound.

The strategy-based game, developed for Android devices, was developed in a span of two weeks and invites users “to explore the options open to the rebels as they push the conflict to its endgame,” according to creator’s website.

“Some don’t like the game because of the form itself where they feel that it is a serious subject and games should not be used here,” creator Tomas Rawlings told The Daily Star Tuesday.

“It might be that the term ‘game’ is the issue. But games can be many things, just as a film or book can. Games don’t have to be frivolous; they can and do tackle serious subjects in a serious way,” he said.

He says others have criticized the game for only siding with the rebels.

But Rawlings says he wanted to “explore the difficulties of taking on an armed state while being formed from various groups who might not always agree.”

He believes that most media is biased anyways. He says he gets regular feedback from people in Syria, which allows him to update and improve the game.

The free simulator, which Apple declined to host on its App store for violating its guidelines on the grounds that it is based on just one political event, pits rebels against forces loyal to Assad in the 22-month-old conflict.

Unlike first-person shooters, where the player views the world through the eyes of an individual or group and interacts in 3-D environments, players in “Endgame: Syria” have to make tactical decisions using a simple interface with point and click moves to advance the cause of the rebels.

“We have accomplished what we set out to do: We have made people aware of the situation in Syria who might otherwise have not considered it,” says Rawlings.

For him, one of the most interesting bits of feedback from a player has been: “Wow. This game is freaking hilarious. You think you can win? Freak it. You don’t win. There are no winners in war. This game got to me and I’m not ashamed to admit it.”

The gaming industry has for years turned to war as a subject matter for players to explore but rarely have developers chosen a specific and ongoing conflict to simulate.

The U.N. estimates over 60,000 people have been killed so far in the increasingly violent conflict.

While the armed opposition claims it is fighting to rid the country of what they regard as an oppressive regime, Assad insists he is facing a conspiracy led by foreign-backed “terrorists.”

“Endgame: Syria” is available at http://gamethenews.net/index.php/endgame-syria/

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 16, 2013, on page 8.




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