Poverty Games, Part 8: Syrian Journey

There is a new game available today through the BBC (and thanks to Kathie Barrett for the tip!): Syrian Journey: Choose your own Escape Route. This is a typical choose-your-own-adventure style online text game, where you read a situation and make a choice between two or three possible options, see the results, and choose again. In the simulation, you and your family are forced to leave Damascus during the current conflict and are seeing asylum in Europe. The choices you make determine whether you are captured by the authorities, get separated from your family, or get everyone to your intended destination.

Was anyone else obsessed with these in the 1980s, or was that just me?

The game is based on stories of real refugees from Syria, and therefore works as a quick and easy way to get students thinking about what faces refugees in these conflicts. It pairs nicely with Against All Odds, as there are more decisions about who to trust and how much risk to take, and many of the pathways end in complete defeat. In AAO, passing a level means success, so failure feels more like a function of poor player performance; in Syrian Journey, it is your choices that lead to failure, and failure often means death or separation from your family. This creates a real opportunity for reflection. For example, at one point you must decide whether to leave your hiding spot in to get supplies. If you do, there is a chance you will be seen and turned in to the authorities. If you don’t, nothing happens right away…but later on, a crowded boat to Italy capsizes, and if you failed to get supplies, you and your family drown. In another example, you have the option of saving a mother and child struggling in the water, but doing so could cost you your chance of escape from the authorities.

Syrian Journey takes only a few minutes to play through a single storyline of 6 or 7 steps, and ten or fifteen minutes to try all the different options. It is a quick way to introduce students to some of the human costs of the conflict in Syria, or as part of a lesson on refugees and human rights. It could work either as a homework assignment, or as a class activity, with students voting on which option to take.

Previous Entries in the Poverty Games Series:
Part 1: Ayiti the Cost of Life

Part 2: 3rd World Farmer

Part 3: Free Rice

Part 4: Spent

Part 5: Inequality Monopoly

Part 6: Papers, Please

Part 7: Against All Odds