Al Jazeera English, an international news channel, wants to highlight what is really going on with Syria’s cyber war by launching a mobile web app called, #Hacked: Syria’s Electronic Armies. The Project draws interest as an example of how gamification (turning something into games or videogames) can be utilized to raise people’s awareness of the highly political and complex real world.
The game is based on senior correspondent Juliana Ruhfus’ documentary People & Power. This time, however, it presents the film’s investigative journalism in a form of a video game, allowing players to interact by giving them tasks like collecting as much data and information possible from activists, coders, and hackers. It is a continuation to Ruhfus’ award-winning research, Pirate Fishing, and it carries on Al Jazeera’s quest to show its programming material in ground-breaking ways to reach new audiences, as reported by Venture Beat.
Ruhfus explained that #Hacked will deliver the news to the next generation who just don’t want to receive news passively, but rather interact with it. To quote:
“The gamification and interactive elements of projects like #Hacked give the user the experience of being immersed in a news story,” suggested the documentary maker.
“Having a specific task to complete often leads them to engage emotionally and intellectually with the topic, while they gain unique perspective on the news story we are presenting through an interactive experience.”
Players must face a handful of decisions, like whether or not they would pay hackers in exchange for vital information, when undercover getting online is needed or not, and deciding whether to allow or disallow the interviewees’ identities during an interview. This game concept is based on real life decision-making dilemmas faced by journalists.
Most importantly, the player should investigate but should maneuver in ways to avoid being hacked. The hack ‘traps’ in the game are being inspired by real world hacks. With the good combination of game design, original footage, and links resources, this interactive app instills players how to shield themselves from hackers, and at the same time acquire real-time news on the Syrian War.
The technology behind this game is Conducttr, a cloud-based platform for games, which provides for interactive projects via multiple channels so that apps can be collaboratively built easily and quickly. #Hacked: Syria’s Electronic Armies is a web app which means it will not require downloading from stores but the UI is designed for mobile use, though it can be played on desktop browsers as well.