This post is part of our Special Coverage Pakistan Votes 2013.
A timely online game and mobile app that packs humorous punches at Pakistan's young and rich voters, some of whom say they will bravely dodge bombs to cast their vote next week, has been played by thousands of people.
The months leading up to the 2013 elections have been rigged with violence, dozens of people have been killed in bombings targeting campaigns, rallies and crowded places. Last month the Pakistani Taliban warned voters and vowed to step up attacks against secular politicians.
About half of Pakistan's 84 million registered voters are under 30 and will be heading to the polls for the first time. An increasing number of young and educated Pakistanis have started to show an interest in politics by attending political rallies and voicing their opinions on Facebook and Twitter. Sarah Munir, a young Pakistani blogger based in Karachi writes:
in the past four months something changed. The conversation steered from what others had done to what we were going to do. We started listening, talking, exchanging views, discussing plans and the most dangerous of all, believing. We started talking about who we were going to vote for and why.
But the Facebook generation is often considered cut-off from the real youth of Pakistan, most of whom have no access to the Internet. On his personal blog Haque explains his motivation behind creating the game:
When I came up with the idea of writing a text adventure based around the Pakistan elections, I had no idea the game would go beyond my small circle of friends, much less get thousands of plays, leading to a mobile app version, and even more plays.
You're rich, you're privileged and high on democracy in an ultra-poor, ultra-conservative society! Are you ready to vote in the urban badlands of ol’ Pakistan? Screw the terrorists, and damn the summer heat – its time to get your vote on.
At the start of the game, Haque breaks down the scenario of the upcoming adventure: “It's election day! You wake up in the morning, excited about going to vote because all your friends on Facebook say they are going too!”. (Facebook is the most frequently visited website in the country.)
Next up you have to decide if you want to take a friend, a date or your guard [note: most upper income households employ private security guards in Pakistan]. If you chose to take your friend or “best buddy Omar (metal head and hipster)”, your first obstacle turns out to be a parent:
Your mom blocks your path. She looks pretty agitated, clutching a copy of today's paper with the headline: Taliban Plan to Bomb all Polling Stations, Especially Those in Urban Rich-Folk areas
“There is no way I am letting my son go off on a suicide mission and get himself killed voting for a bunch of vultures in an election that won't change one thing about Pakistan!” your mom says firmly.
What do you say? [click on one of the three options to proceed to next round]
(Lie) I'm going to hang out with my friends
You're right. There is no point voting mom.
I'm off to vote!
Its tough to decide what's better about this game – a largely accurate description of elite bewilderment at the social and bureacratic mechanisms of Pakistan, or the fact that it's extremely fucking funny.
The humor was sometimes a little too dark for my taste (killing children) [sic], but the story felt “real” and at the same part totally crazy. I learned something about pakistan, too, and learning while having fun in a game is the best kind of learning.
Pakistan's British Council recently released a report on young voters in the country, which the newspaper Express Tribune says really drives home that “this is a generation that has been scarred by terrorism, inflation and instability, and yet its members still plan to vote.”
Pakistan's elections, the first democratic transition of power in the political history of the country, are scheduled for May 11, 2013.