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Fight the police — on your computer screen

I’m not a video game person, but I just learned about one that I will definitely try out. It’s called Riot, and it’s a low-tech simulation of the global unrest over the last few years.

Here’s the piece that makes me so excited: Players are allowed to pick to be either the police or the protesters. But this is no Grand Theft Auto, in which those countering the police also engage in violent, masochistic and criminal actions. (Killing sex workers is definitely not part of the game.)

Instead, the game was partially inspired by the Italian developer’s own experiences attending a peaceful highway blockade. Although the protesters were calm, the police responded by shooting smoke grenades and terrorizing the crowd.

Similarly, in the game the protesters have to use organized sit-ins and other actions in order to outwit the armed officers. But it’s not all peace and love — for either side. Both police and protester players have the ability to choose to act morally or to act immorally, which seems to me to be a pretty accurate representation of how these events play out in real life.

Even though all protesters may not choose to be Gandhi figures, the game is still unique in weighing the morality and authority of both sides, police and protesters, equally. Few, if any, current video games cast state power in such an ambivalent light. A further twist is that the game is not set in any one place, but allows players to choose various settings, from Greece to Egypt to New York City. The global nature of the game furthers the message that it’s not only one regime whose authority is being called into question. Instead, the entire idea of the state apparatus (embodied by its security forces), is worth fighting.

No word on when the game will be ready, but I’m certainly looking forward to it. Watch the trailer below, and a hat tip to comrade Colin Moynihan at the Times for finding this game.