This week in one of my Communications classes, I learned about an online simulation called Asylum: Exit Australia. The simulation puts you in the role of an asylum seeker in a time when there is political and violent turmoil in Australia. The point of the game is to successfully leave the country and reunite with your loved one. The simulation is intended to help audiences understand how difficult it can be for asylum seekers and to teach players about the everyday nuances and feelings of loss and hope these people face.
After playing it myself and discussions in lecture, I found the simulation to be very engaging and allowed for a large variety of different game experiences depending on who you choose to be in the beginning of the game. For example, if you choose to be an older character, you start off with more money and are less subject to getting beat up by strangers or the police. This can lead to you successfully escaping from Australia to a “safe country” by legal means, but as one student pointed out, she spent 15-20 years (game years) trying to obtain citizenship and suffered from different hardships in her new country. Characters who are younger and have less resources are often forced to resort to illegal means to leave the country, which leads to dying from starvation on a boat or simply dying before they get to leave Australia.
Another interesting aspect of this simulation is how it tries to stick close with your emotions by creating a “loved character” who you aim to be reunited with. Out of the many simulations our class ran, majority of players never got to see this reality. Even those who were able to relocate to a safe country were not able to bring their loved ones with them. This was upsetting enough during the game, I have no idea who people handle this in real life.
Overall, this simulation made me think of a Tumblr post, where one user prompted: What if there was a video game where you have to make harder and harder choices, and then in the end you realize you’ve become the villain?
When I first ran this simulation, I tried to do what was right: apply for a passport, apply for a visa, buy a real plane ticket, etc. But as those options fizzled out and more hurdles were thrown at me, I was forced to go to the black market, sell my items, forge documents – all the illegal things that we rationally know we should not do. But in a time when one is desperate for safety, it became almost necessary.
For anyone who is interested, try the simulation and let me know how your character ended up.