Games as news reporting: NarcoGuerra

By Owen Faraday 04 Jun 2013 0
Out of kindness, I suppose. All the federales say they could have had him any day.

I have friends whose primary intake of news is The Daily Show or Have I Got News For You. I can sympathize with the attitude that news needs a candy coating of comedy to be palatable.

When we first talked to Tomas Rawlings about his Game The News project (right around the time that Apple had rejected his Syrian civil war game Endgame Syria for "targeting a specific culture"), I thought his aim was to provoke discussion and deeper consideration of news stories. But talking to Rawlings about his latest production -- a War on Drugs strategy game called NarcoGuerra for iOS and for Android-- I see a slightly different objective. Rawlings wants to be The Daily Show for people that fire up a video game instead of turning on the TV when they get home from work. If reading the news isn't your thing, maybe playing it is.

Like Endgame Syria, NarcoGuerra presents you with protagonists you don't normally inhabit in most games. In this case, you're the government of Mexico, trying to restore order to regions of that vast country that have been essentially conquered by drug cartels -- and you're trying to do it with an easily corrupted police force who might just turn their coats. If that sounds tough -- that's the point.

Without dice. A fight that could well be happening right now.

"If [players] ask themselves; 'why has this been going on so long?' or 'is this even a war at all' then I'll be happy," Rawlings told me last week. By some counts, more than eighty thousand people have been killed in Mexico as a result of the "War on Drugs", and NarcoGuerra wants you to confront.

I suggest to Rawlings that this new game seems to take more of an editorial stance than Endgame Syria, which seemed to emphasize the moral grey area entered into by both sides of that conflict. "I'd argue it is less an opinion and more a reflection of the reality of 41 years of the War on Drugs," Rawlings says. "The volumes of reports written about the drug wars show that this is a dynamic system that seems to ebb and flow with street-price, interdiction rates while the usage remains about the same.

"There is a news organisation that has the slogan, 'we report, you decide' - I'd say we're doing the gamers version of that idea but in our own way, so 'we report, you play, you decide."

NarcoGuerra is out as an iOS Universal app and on Android for a dollar. The trailer's below.
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