#MuckedUp chat: The serious business of Syria's news gamification

#MuckedUp chat: The serious business of Syria's news gamification

To the soundtrack of haunting music, I am up late imagining Syria through the eyes of a rebel teenager living in Aleppo. I know that I am 17 and the youngest of three sons born to Ibrahim, and also that any acquaintance could turn me in for the smallest offense, banishing me to jail. “It crosses your mind that Syria might be on the brink of something much bigger,” my screen tells me. Although I realize this is just a gamification of the Syrian saga, the knowledge that these details were gathered from interviews with real people serves to heighten the game’s effect on me. This is newsgaming.

Available for all to play via the web, 1,000 Days of Syria is simultaneously “part electric literature; part newscast; and part choose-your-own-adventure,” game creator Mitch Swenson explains. A fitting description, considering Swenson himself is as much a hybrid as his creation: part game architect, part reporter. After a 2013 trip to northern Syria spent interviewing soldiers and civilians alike, he returned to the U.S. only to find a distinct disinterest in the crisis that was unfolding in Western Asia. His solution to engaging the indifferent: 1,000 Days, which he bills as “an exercise in transmedia storytelling.” It’s an unconventional answer that hatches more questions: How has reporting on this conflict evolved since it began three years ago? And when it comes to the “gamification” of hard news, where should the line be drawn between news and entertainment?

Our next #MuckedUp guest Mitch Swenson is a writer, journalist, and game designer focused on terrorism, intelligence and cybersecurity. He is the author of The Tracking of a Russian Spy (you’re going to want to read that one!) and the creator of the educational newsgame 1000 Days of Syria. Swenson’s work can be seen in places like VICEThe New York PostGuernica Magazine and more recently through War Is Boring on Medium.com. We look forward to covering a wide berth of topics while Swenson is with us next week, including coverage of Syria’s unrest as well as the implications of newsgaming such a conflict. Got a question for Swenson? Tweet or email it to me before the end of the day on Monday, then join us on Twitter on Tuesday, Oct. 21, by following the #muckedup hashtag at 5 p.m. PST/8 p.m. EST! In the meantime, please help us spread the word about the chat between now and then, simply by clicking here!

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