A journalist has turned his harrowing experiences into an online, educational text adventure.
Mitch Swenson was in northern Syria in September 2013, two and a half years after the outbreak of Civil War. It was not his first time surrounded by conflict, having spent time in Libya, South Sudan, and experiencing first-hand the start of a revolution in Tahrir Square. “I’ve been around men with guns before,” he says, speaking to The Guardian.
While there, Swenson found that “not a single person within Syria’s borders was left untouched by the violence”. The conflict was more devastating than he thought, and he realised how under-reported it was throughout the world.
On returning to America, he was shocked at the “pervasive lack of interest” from people outside of Syria. Dissatisfied, his idea was to turn his experiences into an interactive, narrative-driven adventure to “illuminate the smaller stories of a civil conflict”. Swenson wanted to push the events in Syria to the forefront of the public consciousness.
He admits that contending with the top stories in pop culture is impossible, but if it can “inform and perhaps motivate” at least some members of the public, he would consider it a success.
In 1,000 Days of Syria, players will have to make decisions based on “political, emotional, and economical” factors. Swenson hopes to get across the complicated and difficult situations the people of Syria face every day; “Many times, much like real life, there will not be perfect solutions to these complexities”.
In the game, there are three very different characters to take control of: a mother of two living in Daraa, a rebel youth living in Aleppo, and an American journalist based in Beirut. Each story is called The Family, The Fighter, and The Foreigner, respectively. The story is explained entirely in text, and there are three possible endings for each character.
While aspects of the game are naturally fabricated, the overall narrative is rooted in Swenson’s personal experiences in the war-torn country. “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”.
By turning his experiences into a game, Swenson doesn’t mean to trivialise what is going on or turn the atrocities in Syria into a piece of entertainment. “1000 Days of Syria should not be considered a game at all, but rather an interactive education”.
1,000 Days of Syria is available now, for free, to play in your browser.