Escape From Woomera is a modification of the PC game Half-life. It was developed in 2003 by an Australian-based group of professional game developers, digital media artists and an investigative journalist.
The game recreates, based on original research by the project team's journalist, the environment and living conditions of the Woomera Immigration Reception and Processing Centre.
- "If you thought escaping from Castle Wolfenstein was hard, try Woomera Immigration Reception and Processing Centre....
- With a first person, 3D adventure game we invite gamers to assume the character of, and 'live' through the experiences of a modern day refugee. The effective media lock-out from immigration detention centres has meant that the whole truth about what goes on behind the razor-wire at Woomera, Baxter, Port Hedland, Maribyrnong and Villawood remains largely a mystery to the Australian public. We want to challenge this by offering the world a glimpse - more than that even: an interactive, immersive experience - of life within the most secretive and controversial places on the Australian political and geographical landscape. In this way, Escape From Woomera will be an engine for mobilising experiences and situations otherwise inaccessible to a nation of disempowered onlookers. It will provide both a portal and a toolkit for reworking and engaging with what is otherwise an entirely mediated current affair."
Quotes from the developers
"The videogame is the most rapidly evolving, exciting, subversive and feared cultural medium in the world today. It's akin to graffiti on the cultural landscape. As such it is ripe for an injection of interesting and progressive ideas that can effect social change. We are a team of game developers, digital artists and media professionals, committed to the videogame medium – not merely as a vehicle for conceptual new media art or profit-driven entertainment – but as a free, independent art form in its own right. The creation of Escape From Woomera is part of a larger goal: the rise of a counter-culture of developers and gamers who create and engage with game art outside the mainstream corporate industry.
Contrary to the way the Australian government wants us to see refugees – as "queue-jumpers" and "illegals", we must recognise these people as victims. But they are also heroes. Escaping life-threatening situations in their home countries, where many dared to stand up for what they believe in against injustice and oppression, is just the beginning of their heroism. Following their arrival in a place that they were led to believe was the 'free world', refugees must keep their spirit unbroken against what is called the "slow death" of years behind razor-wire, and the cynical and racist bureaucratic manoevres of a state that sees anyone of middle eastern origin as a potential terrorist. All the while knowing that they are in constant danger of being sent back to face the horror from which they fled."
"The second impetus for creating a project like EFW was the need to make a statement about what games can be – a serious medium for cultural and artistic expression. Many of us in the commercial game industry are tired of being forced to work like indentured slaves on predominantly shallow, mono-cultural and ideologically reactionary games for the US and European mass markets in order to make a living. As game developers we are tired of being treated like second class (trash) culture manufacturers. We create culture, with a medium for expression that speaks to us and to our generation: the videogame."
The make-up of the team behind Escape From Woomera was considered key to the concept. The project brought professional game developers together with "game artists" and an investigative journalist.
- Escape From Woomera (SelectParks)
- Online Games Grab Grim Reality (New York Times)
- Australia funds asylum game (BBC News)
- Escape from Woomera (Game Girl Advance)
- Escape Game Wires the Minister (Sydney Morning Herald)
- Escape Game is not a laughing matter (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission)
- It's no game if life imitates art (The Age)
- Your Say (The Age)
- Rethinking Wargames Activate
- Escape from Woomera (in Italian)