Choose your own (war-ravaged country) adventure

This year as an optional assignment for my political science class on peacebuilding and civil conflict, I gave my students the option of writing an interactive story rather than the usual research papers using Inklewriter. Four groups decided to do so, and the result is four online interactive simulations of the choose-your-own-adventure sort:

Humanitarian Negotiation with Armed Groups 

This project explores the difficult of securing humanitarian access in areas of ongoing armed violence, building upon the Guidelines on Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups (2006) developed by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. One interesting innovation by this group was introducing an element of chance into the outcomes. Since the software doesn’t allow for it, they achieved this through the simple solution of occasionally having the reader roll a six-sided die.

Hard to Handle: A DDR Story

This simulation addresses many of the challenges of disarmament, demobilization,  and reintegration programmes, including cheating, female combatants, and the need to find suitable civilian employment for ex-combatants. It also captures some of the never-ending meetings, coordination challenges, stakeholder consultations, and confidence-building requirements of peacebuilding by forcing the player to meet with many different actors—often more than once—before achieving their goals.

Aleppo: The Mother of All Battles 

Here the reader/player is just trying to survive, as the Syrian civil war rages around them. It isn’t always clear what the best choice: flee, or stay in place? Join a side, or stay neutral? When death comes, it comes as suddenly, and finally, as a sniper’s bullet.

Chaos in the Democratic Republic of the Congo 

In this simulation, the player/reader must try to deal with various challenges arising from M23 militia activity in the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The reader is given the option of playing through the story as two quite different characters. Also, the simulation recognizes that perfection is rarely achieved in the field: a player needs to only succeed two out of three times for the mission to be deemed a “success.”

None of the students had any prior experience with simulation design.

Links to the fully-playable games can be found at PAXsims.

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