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Friday, February 22, 2013

Video Game Inspired by Clashes in Egypt and Italy Allows Gamers to Fight the Police

The trailer for ‘Riot,’ a new video game.

Accompanied by ominous music, shouts and sirens, the video shows a series of turbulent scenes: a man throwing an explosive into a police car, someone kicking a shop window and uniformed officers launching projectiles and marching with shields.

Over the past few years, similar tableaux have unfolded across Northern Africa, the Middle East and Europe as protesters have taken to the streets to challenge despotic governments or participate in anti-austerity demonstrations.

But the events depicted in the video, which also features a replication of an image by Banksy of a masked man hurling a bouquet, were not real. They were a simulacrum created in Italy a part of a new video game called “Riot,” that is being designed for smartphones and will allow players to control avatars representing either protesters or police officers.

Leonard Menchiari, a director and animator from Florence who is developing the game, said in an e-mail exchange that the concept was initially inspired by a photograph of a lone protester facing a line of armored police in Cairo.

Then, about a year ago, Mr. Menchiari said, he attended a demonstration for the first time, joining hundreds of people blocking a highway near the city of Turin to protest plans to build a high-speed train line through a nearby Alpine valley.

A 2012 video report from the Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano showed protesters from Italy’s No TAV movement blocking a road to protest plans to build a high-speed railway through an Alpine valley.

Mr. Menchiari, 26, said that he felt that he had stepped into “a parallel world.” He wrote that he was struck by the dedication of the protesters and by a conversation he had, in a moment of relative calm, with an officer carrying a plastic shield, who suggested that the two sides might share some values in common.

Eventually, though, the authorities used force to disperse the crowd.

Footage of riot police officers clearing protesters from a highway in Italy lat year, in a video report from the Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano.

As Mr. Menchiari described his experience:

I found myself running with a bunch of people in complete darkness in the middle of an open field, away from the scene, while police were shooting CS smoke grenades directly at us trying to hit us rather than just intoxicate us. Some grenades were shot in people’s homes, others ended up seriously injuring people.

Mr. Menchiari said Riot, which features pixel art figures and graphics influenced by the game “Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP,” will feature events like the highway protest he participated in and present players with the opportunity to make “moral or immoral decisions.”

Conflicts will be set in Italy, Greece, Egypt, New York, and other places, he said, adding that he was seeking advice from people who have experienced various civil disturbances with an eye ! toward ma! king the game realistic.

The aim, he wrote, is “to replicate the feel you get during certain situations, where the crowd thinks as a single organism.”

Mr. Menchiari said that the video game was not meant to express an ideological message. Instead, he said, he wanted to illustrate the behavior of both demonstrators and security forces while communicating the mixture, of passion, adrenaline and chaos that often accompany moments when the two sides clash.

He said that he chose the game’s name to reflect the moments of confrontation that he was most interested in replicating. “I decided to call it Riot because I feel it’s the clearest, most powerful way of expressing what this game is about,” he wrote.

In an appeal for donations on the crowd-funding site Indiegogo, Mr. Menchiari wrote that he is seeking money from supporters to “enable the developers to travel, document and experience live riots going on in Italy, Greee, Egypt and possibly many other places around the world.”

Some people who discussed the game on Reddit recently professed admiration for the idea. A few, however, wondered whether the verisimilitude sought by Mr. Menchiari might make companies like Apple that run mobile phone operating systems uneasy. “Developing it for iOS,” one Redditor suggested: “will mean it’s going to have to be a clean, family-friendly game without political, social or any ! other kin! d of controversy. It’s an interesting idea that’s going to be neutered by censored walled gardens. I’m sure there’s some irony in there somewhere.”