The Lessons Learned team recently played through episode one of Path Out, a computer game designed in collaboration between Abdullah Karam, the developers of Causa Creations, Wobblersound, and graphic designer Brian Main. Path Out has been on LLLST’s radar for some time as a multi-award-winning game built to tell the true story Karam’s escape from the Syrian Civil war in 2014. Causa Creations describes the game like this:
"Path Out is a tale full of surprises, challenges and paradoxical humor, giving insight in this real-life adventure, on which Abdullah comments through Youtube-style videos in the game. In this first leg of Abdullah's journey, he recalls life before the war, a family decision that led to his departure and the perilous journey from his hometown Hama to the Turkish border through the war-torn Aleppo province."
Path Out seems to be directed at an audience of western video game players, a choice that gives the game a sharp focus and clear voice. Both the art style and the game design lean heavily on tropes from classic 16-bit games, which the designers use to set up the player’s expectations and then challenge them immediately. In the first scene, for example, players are put into what would seem like a familiar scenario: our hero finds himself on a dangerous road with stereotypical-looking “bad guys” up ahead; in most 16-bit video games the solution would involve combat, violence, and eventual triumph over your opponents. Path Out, however, is different. Attempts at combat result in certain death, with Abdullah himself popping up on your screen to tell you, “Hey! You got me killed!” Path Out does well to balance humour and fun with the intensity of its subject matter, leaving players with an enjoyable and powerful experience that focuses on primarily on narrative storytelling. In the end, players feel a connection to Abdullah Karam, and an investment in seeing him through to safety.
Currently, Path Out only has the first leg of Karam’s journey available to play, so we are eagerly awaiting the full game whenever it becomes available. In its current form, Path Out is a short but effective adventure game, one that reminds us here at LLST of the plentiful ways that games can be used to teach. When designing, keep your primary audience in mind; enjoyment can keep participants invested, even when dealing with heavy subject matter; your medium itself can be used to build player expectations and to subvert those same expectations.
We look forward to learning more about Karam’s life — and game design— when Path Out is released in full.