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Panpa Bulletin : November 2011
As budding reporter Jesse DeMarco, the player has a video or stills camera to capture the story for the nightly news. To do so, Jesse must avoid becoming a victim of the carnage that surrounds her. “ You go into the warzone, and the game enables you to look around any- where in that environment,” says Mr Maniaty. “And if you see something you want to film, you bring the camera up to your eye, see the environment through the lens, and press record. “ Whatever you’re recording is saved in the computer and you proceed through various challenges in the game. “ Then, when you’ve got some spare time, you bring up what you’ve recorded, and you cut your own news piece.” Players can then be assessed to see where they performed well, or need to improve. Mr Maniaty, a veteran of war re- porting, is a driving force behind the project, which began development three years ago. “i’m bringing journalistic experience and input to the game,” he says. “i’ve spoken to a few survivors who have been caught in suicide blasts and other traumatic experiences, and i’m also tied up with a couple of formal groups, such as the Dart Centre for Jour- nalism and Trauma and iNSi.” Mr Maniaty recalls his harrowing ex- perience in east Timor in 1975: “i was there when the ‘Balibo five’ were killed – i was the other journalist – and we were shelled; we went through a lot of trauma.” Those events were made into a 2009 film directed by robert Connelly who, incidentally, is the director and on the production team of WArCo. executives at news agencies in lon- don and New York were given an eight- minute sneak preview of the game last month and were asked for additional input. Mr Maniaty says this additional feed- back will help further develop WArCo so young journalists can be better trained and never go through experiences simi- lar to those he had suffered in Balibo. “it’s aimed to be an assessable, entry- level game,” he says. “it’s not designed for top-flight war correspondents – they know most of this stuff. “it’s really a way of introducing people to the idea of war reporting and its com- plications and risks.” Currently, there are many organi- sations offering Hostile environment Training courses. The quality of these varies and may involve anything from simulating kid- napping to weapons education and first Aid training. other organisations, such as the Dart Centre for Journalism and Trauma, pro- vide post-trauma education to help jour- nalists recognise the damaging psycho- logical effects of such experiences. Dart’s Asia-Pacific managing director, Cait McMahon, says a video game could help to train and enhance a journalist’s resilience to trauma. “[Trauma] resilience is something we’re born with to varying degrees, but it’s also something that can be learnt,” she says. “So it would be about teaching people skills to do that to enhance their own re- silience. “Video games are the sort of technol- ogy that young correspondents are used to. i wouldn’t like to see it as the only training that’s provided, but it could be an addendum.” Sydney Morning Herald photographer Kate geraghty says the Hostile environ- ments Training that she received thanks to her employer, fairfax Media, was in- valuable. it included advanced first Aid train- ing. “in lebanon, we came across a lot of horrifically injured people, so the medi- cal training kicks in,” she says. “Adrenaline is surging through your body and you don’t know if you’re about to be attacked. “But in all that, you remember ele- ments of what you’ve been trained to do. “My first time in a conflict zone was absolutely terrifying,” she recalls. “This was the invasion of iraq [in 2003]. There’s nothing that can teach you like the real thing as there are so many variables in any conflict.” The photographer has gone on to capture dramatic events in Afghanistan, lebanon and the Congo. “They’re all entirely different to each other,” Ms geraghty continues. “every conflict you go to, you gain a huge amount of knowledge but it might not be relevant to the next place.” giving journalists the opportunity to experience the dangers of war without the risk of death is obviously a positive of WArCo. Ms geraghty’s colleague at the Sydney Morning Herald, foreign editor Connie le- vett, would like to see the game cater to many scenarios, not just conflict zones. “ You don’t have to be in a hostile re- gion to get into trouble,” she says. “ You could be in the wrong part of New York, or a street protest blows up and get into trouble.” Her view is supported by the latest iNSi report that not only highlights the dangers of well-known hotspots but also singles out london, Madrid and rome, where riots over corporate greed and government inaction have ignited. Ms levett says: “There’s nothing like the real situation for teaching a journal- ist how to manage, but you do need to have pointers to see where some of your difficulties might come from. “So, if the game is giving you those sorts of pointers, or penalising you for taking an easy option that could lead to a problem further down the track, then yes, it could be useful.” Video game simulations, first Aid and weapons training is a far cry from the days of being thrown in at the deep end, says veteran journalist and producer of the ABC’s foreign Correspondent, Mark Corcoran. ABC journalist Mark Corcoran: Many young freelancers are without any funding, resources or backup WARCO developer Tony Maniaty is bringing his own experiences from Balibo to the game’s scenarios Sydney Morning Herald foreign editor Connie Levett could envisage WARCO used as a training tool for other disaster areas The PANPA Bulletin | NOVEMBER 2011 | 13 CONTINUED PAGE 14 Watch a preview of the game by scanning this QR code with your mobile