‘Inside Disaster’: the Interactive Experience

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Last week I wrote about the terrific Inside Disaster series. And here, as promised, is my colleague Tobi Elliott’s assessment of the interactive game on the Inside Disaster web site, where you can choose to be a survivor, a relief worker, or a journalist. (Tobi, as you may have noticed, regularly helps with this blog.)

Greeted by a grim, ashy looking scene of destruction, I begin the “Inside the Haiti Earthquake” experience with a small amount of dread. The disclaimer reads: “Please note that this simulation contains graphic and disturbing imagery.”

Many of the images ARE disturbing. Graphic and heartwrenching. Bodies lying in heaps on the ground. Rioting for food, people getting trampled. Fires and tears and brokenness. Some clips are more vivid than others, but the grainy film texture sometimes adds to the chaos the experience is supposed to replicate. Music underscores many of the clips.

I chose to enter the experience as a journalist, of course, and my job was to create a two-minute feature story on the earthquake for a major network. After arriving in Haiti and travelling to Port-au-Prince, I was given the choice to go out into the streets and film, or stay in the safety of the Canadian Embassy. I chose to go out and get a story.

Following most segments, the player is presented with options to select from, choices that affect the outcome of your story. Some of the introductions/transitions to the next segment are almost hilarious, like a vibrating Blackberry cellphone with a text message from your producer after you file your first story.

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Your choices can lead to harsh, seemingly realistic outcomes, as I discovered when I lost my job after making a poor choice as a journalist! (I decided on a story angle too soon and couldn’t deliver… hmm…)

Generally, I found the experience quite moving because it brought me right into the reality of chaotic post-earthquake Haiti. I forgot sometimes that I was playing “a game.” What was onscreen could believably become what you might see with your own eyes. It became real. Your choices do seem to matter, even if just for a split second, “inside disaster.”

This simulation would probably appeal to almost any age, except for young children, and seems more designed to rouse empathy than to educate. The choices you make can lead to good and bad consequences, but that doesn’t seem to be the point of the experience. Instead, it’s about experiencing the chaos and trauma in a situation like the aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake… where every decision isn’t necessarily a good one, just the best one that could be made at the time.

Check it out here and see for yourself: www.insidedisaster.com/experience.

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Thanks to Tobi Elliott for her help with this blog. You can find her at her new website here.

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Magnus Isacsson

As an independent documentary filmmaker I have made some fifteen films dealing with social, political and environmental issues. Previously I was a television and radio producer. I was born in Sweden in 1948, immigrated to Canada in 1970. I live with Jocelyne and our daughter Béthièle in Montreal, and my older daughter Anna lives in Toronto.

One thought on “‘Inside Disaster’: the Interactive Experience”

  1. I played the journalist myself just to get the experience of the aftermath. It’s a great way to get an insider’s view at the harsh realities. Good work by PTV. I wonder what budget they had for the site…

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