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Reactions to Endgame:Syria (Updated!)

December 18, 2012

So we launched Endgame:Syria a few days ago.  I was expecting a reaction to the game, and I can understand why some would be nervous about it.  Indeed we made this video to address those concerns when we launched:

But so far the reaction has been pretty good.  Here is what said about it:

Endgame: Syria is a neat little game that does not deserve being shackled to a small window in the browser. The game oozes quite some quality and is actually fun to play. Players familiar with card games like Magic: The Gathering should have no problems playing this game as the rules are very much simpler here.

The subject matter for Endgame: Syria should not however be looked on from a trivialized angle; people and civilian casualties are dying everyday over in Syria. Hopefully with this unique gamification approach, it will make more people aware of what is happening today in the beleaguered country of Syria.

Which is great, as they totally get what we are trying to do. Another comment posted by a user on the Google Play store was also really great:

Wow. This game is freaking hilarious. You think you can win? Freak it. You dont win. There are no Winners in war. This game got to me and I’m not ashamed to admit it…

Also this from Playandroid:

‘Endgame: Syria’ focuses more on informing about the problem than giving an intense gamefeeling, which makes it more a simulation or an interactive experience. This new way of using the game medium for explaining current world problems provides a new look on the possibilities of games and is promising to become a new accepted genre.

Also I was very honoured to be written about on Pocket Tactics (an ace site!) about the game:

If you remember the guest post that Red Wasp Design producer Tomas Rawlings wrote for usabout WWI battlefield medicine, then you’ll recall that Rawlings is a game designer that’s unusually fixated on the intersection between games and real life. If anybody is up for tackling the challenge of making a ludic commentary on today’s headlines, it’s him.

Also this tweet really made my day – a lecturer setting the game as a task for students and they can grab screens and report back in class – brilliant result!

And here is another twitter response…

So far, I’m really pleased. We are, however, still waiting on Apple’s App Store to approve the game. It’s been with them over a week now and gone into ‘extra time’ which I assume is about the subject matter; so fingers crossed!

Update!  Since I wrote the optimistic words above the game was rejected due to App Store guidelines forbidding games that “solely target a specific race, culture, a real government or corporation, or any other real entity”.  Apple say that Endgame:Syria, which explores a real news event and aims to show users the range of factions and peoples involved in the situation, fell into this category and so was rejected. This decision is a shame really as it makes it hard to talk about the real world.  We had hoped that Apple would be more nuanced in how they applied this rule but we got a bit worried when it had been in submission for around two weeks without a decision – we then figured that because of the controversy of using the gaming medium to cover an ongoing war meant passing the game had become an issue for them. Our aim is to use games as a format to bring news to a new audience and submission processes such as this do make it a lot harder for us.  I get that Apple want to make sure really offensive titles don’t pass into their store, but ours is far from that.  In fact the response to the game has been broadly positive with much of the mainstream media picking up on the story.  We’ll be making changes to the game and re-submitting it but it does mean we’ll have to strip some of the meaning and context from it to pass Apple’s submission process and that is not ideal.

However what has happened as a result of the objection is a huge spike in interest in what we are doing. Here is a flavour… Foreign Policy wrote a good article on the ins-and-outs of rejection:

Many people would be hard-pressed to find Syria on a map, let alone know the factions that are fighting and the outside nations that are backing them. A simple computer card game may not be deep, but when players ponder whether to play a “Saudi Support for the Rebels” or a “Rebels Assassinate Key Regime Leader” card, they are making decisions, and that is how humans learn best. Perhaps it will spur them to learn more current events, or if nothing else, they may remember a few names and places, and who is fighting who. At the least, they will learn a lot more than playing Angry Birds on an iPhone.

The Guardian ran a couple of articles about this, including a long one of the concept of news-gaming:

“What this comes down to is a problem of familiarity and convention,” [Ian Bogost] says. “When you stop to think about it, there’s really no reason to believe that film and television aren’t inappropriate media for exploring real-world issues and events. I mean, Michael Bay made a film about Pearl Harbor, even. But we’re more accustomed to non-fiction film and television because there are more examples of them. There’s also more criticism and commentary that hashes out the conventions and aesthetics of documentary, non-fiction, and dramatic televisual media.”

There was also a good review over on RockPaperShotgun and I’m pleased to see made the point that the game does break you out of any news-bubble you might be in. Plus VentureBeat made a great point about the rejection:

As games sit in the crossfire of a national debate on violence, it’s sad that a one has to cut out its meaning and context in order to gain access to a huge audience.

Wired also had a really good article on the whole thing and made these key points:

As gamers, we are generally happy to delve into historical battles such as World War II in Medal of Honor, despite the devastation, violence and death, and barely an eyelid was batted when the genre moved into modern warfare in Afghanistan and Pakistan with its latter sequels. However, delving into an ongoing conflict, where tensions are extremely high and the subject matter sensitive, is another matter entirely. With early Medal of Honor games, developers could obviously be confident in their narrative, including who was the enemy. By addressing a current civil war and its multiple factions and infinite social complexities, Endgame: Syria is not giving us any answers — it’s encouraging us to ask more questions. Not comfortable territory for most.

So yes, we’re going to re-submit and also I’m hoping to write something addressing the feedback we’ve had on the game. So watch this space!


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