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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Building Hope shows what it takes to provide shelter for millions of refugees

In the last couple of decades there have been several humanitarian crises that have created huge flows of refugees around the world. Be it natural disasters or armed conflicts, sometimes people see no other solution than to leave their homes and hearth behind and seek shelter, food and safety in other countries.

Some cold hard facts about refugees. At least 89.3 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes. Among them are nearly 27.1 million refugees, around half of whom are under the age of 18. More than 7 in 10 of all refugees come from just five countries. Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees, with 3.7 million people. 

Eray Ağaçdoğrayan, founder of Gyroscoping Games, is Turkish himself. He has seen the public discourse around the refugee crisis change in his country. “Refugees have been a main topic of news, talk shows and social media for about a decade”, he says. “And with more people pouring in and new refugee camps being built all the time, there is a lot of hate speech and bigotry going around.” 

Critical position

Turkey is in a critical geographical position in the refugee crises. With the Syrian civil war raging on and the Taliban seizing power again in Afghanistan, huge convoys of people looking for a safe haven are pouring into the country.  “One of the counterarguments against hosting refugees was their education levels”, says Ağaçdoğrayan. “Some people argue that low-educated refugees are just a burden to the economy and that they don’tt want to improve themselves. But is this true? Do they really not want education, or did they never have had that opportunity?”

Ağaçdoğrayan believes that no one voluntarily chooses to leave everything behind and become a refugee. He sees the good in people and is determined to show the world what it means to be on the run and be labeled an outcast. “My main argument is that conditions at refugee camps are the root of many problems in this crisis. People just don’t get what it means to live in these camps. But how can I transform the view of people and confront them with the realities of refugee camps worldwide? There’s one tool that is perfect for showing the non-refugees the life of refugees, and that’s video games!” 

Building and managing

It prompted Ağaçdoğrayan to start his own game development studio Gyroscoping Games. Here, a core team of 3 people and quite a few outsourcing partners, work together on Building Hope – Refugee Camp Simulator. It’s a city-builder game that revolves around building and managing a refugee camp. Players start with nearly empty maps around the world and try to build a camp for incoming refugees. Providing shelters, food, and clean water with an optimised distribution infrastructure in the camp is just the beginning. Players must also provide health care, education services, leisure activities, heating, and electricity. 

For a year Ağaçdoğrayan read everything about the refugee issue he could get his hands on. “Conditions, dynamics, and situations all vary between refugee camps worldwide. So I carefully studied the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) reports. They are the primary content source for Building Hope. But also popular media, books, interviews with refugees, and personnel working in humanitarian programs shape our game design and content creation process.”

Sensitive topic

“It’s our first project and we chose a sensitive topic”, says Ağaçdoğrayan. “We try to work as conscientiously as possible. From the scenarios to the 3D models, we are paying extra attention to not just develop a great video game but also to be sensitive and not hurt people’s feelings. This approach is a unique experience for us.” Gyroscoping Games was founded after a pre-seed investment round in 2021. The game will most likely be self-published. 

The team has two clear goals for the final product. They want to give players a different perspective and experience about a real-world issue. But at the same time, they want to deliver a great gameplay experience. “We’ve had some positive and emotional comments from refugees and relatives of refugees about Building Hope, so that shows me that we are on the right track”, says Ağaçdoğrayan. “When this game is out, Gyroscoping Games will keep focussing on the city-builder genre. We plan to carry our experience over too future projects with different themes.”

Building Hope – Refugee Camp Simulator is slated for an Early Access release this summer. 

Eric Bartelson
Eric Bartelson
Editor-in-Chief of PreMortem.Games. Veteran game journalist for over 20 years. Started out in 1999 for game magazines (yes the ones made of paper) such as PC Zone Benelux, PlayNation and GameQuest, before co-founding Dutch industry paper Control Magazine.
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