September 12th: A Toy World

Door: Gonzalo Frasca.

“In 2003, Gonzalo Frasca created ‘September 12th: A Toy World’, the first Serious Game to be considered a Newsgame, this means a game with journalistic purposes. This polemical Serious Game aims to create debate around the war against terrorism. However, the game alerts: ‘This is not a game. You can’t win and you can’t lose’. Absolutely true.

Since its release, ‘September 12th’ has been used as an example of Newsgame and Serious Game in every academic research on the topic. The reason is that this is the perfect match between telling something important to people and creating constructive debate using game’s mechanics.

In this Serious Game you need to kill terrorists shooting missiles. The action uses first person perspective in order to enhance immersion. The problem is that terrorists are surrounded by civilians and it is almost impossible to attack terrorists without killing civilians too. The dead are mourned and the rage of the survivors turns them into terrorists. You just have to play for a couple of minutes to realize that the only way to avoid ‘collateral damage’ is not to play.

‘September 12th’ is a great example of how Serious Games make people think and debate. The player focuses in playability but ends up understanding the cruel truth: you cannot win, you cannot kill only terrorists dropping bombs, violence will only cause more violence, suffering and death.”