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You didn’t get an asylum, what next – a journalistic game

Description

The story is a game like implementation which demonstrates all those choices and fates that the rejected asylum seeker can face. The method brings the subject closer to the reader than a regular news story.

The reader is placed to the role of asylum seeker and has to choose between the same choices that asylum seekers have when they are given a negative asylum decision. In the beginning reader chooses whether he/she would try to stay in Finland or return to Iraq after negative asylum decision. There are four different endings where the reader could end up. The presented situations in the story are based on the information that were acquired from different sources.

The story demanded great investigation. It was not known what rights asylum seekers have, in what kind of conditions they live, or what the police does when they come across with the paperless, who in the other hand can’t be returned involuntarily to their homeland.

Origin

Autumn of 2015 was a historical moment in Nordic countries. Tens of thousands of asylum seekers started to travel here. One year on, the countries are making decisions – who gets to stay and who doesn’t.

We thought that game-like implementation could be suited for a story this complex where there are multiple endings and possibilities. In this story we present the reader with the same choices as in real life. If you don’t get an asylum, you have two choices: appeal or return voluntarily. The main character is a young man from Iraq (that was the most discussed group of asylum seekers in Finland).

Finland also changed the country evaluation of safety in Iraq so many more iraqi people were refused entry than before.

Data

The data sources of the story were Finnish Immigration Service, International Organization of Migration, Helsinki Police Department, City of Helsinki, The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Ministry of the Interior, researcher Mervi Leppäkorpi, National Police Board, Finnish Refugee Council, Global Clinic, UNHCR and Iraqi refugees.

In addition the photographs were got from Katja Tähjä, UNHCR, and All Over Press and video material from IRCR and UNHCR. The music is made by Scott Holmes and it was used under Creative Commons license.

Resources

The team consisted of two coders, one graphic artist, one producer and two reporters from which the other did the voiceovers. The story was made intensively about from two and half to three weeks.

Impact

The process resulted in actual news. The authorities in Finland don’t know what to do with the so called “illegal immigrants” who stay in the country. Are they allowed social services or not? This caused a big public debate in Finland that still rages on.

The story was praised for being a new way of telling stories. Some of the readers reacted strongly to the topic, but it also got positive feedback and put readers to think about the situation of asylum seekers.

From those who started the game, over 60 percent proceeded to some of the four endings. In a hectic world it demanded concentration from the reader and in general tells that the story found its targeted audience.

The game engine is meant to be refined and used in future when dealing with other themes. The problems that were faced in the story process were new to the team and solving them gave a lot of new knowledge for the team.

Obstacles

News game is an experimental story type that demands tight co-work in between the producer, coder, reporter and graphic artist.

It was a challenge to get different scenes work together. It is simple to report about things and put them to regular news story, but it is different scale of work to create scenes to a news game which together create a logical structure whether what decisions reader makes and in which order. As the game had to advance quickly, the text had to be edited more than in regular story.

It was especially hard to find out what waits the person who has been turned away in Iraq. This side of the story process demanded shaping a realistic view of situation from country where the team had not visited.
One of the obstacles was to get the game engine work on the web site. The game engine also laid some restrictions how the rest of the functionality could be made. The testing and fixing was hard as the story had to always be started over.

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