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Picture the Surveillance State in this Game

‘Freedom Through a Lens’ is a game about protest, resistance, and the importance of a free press.
Image courtesy Nicholas Staracek and Nic Lyness

At Play in the Carceral State is a week-long series investigating play in, around, and about prisons and prison culture. Learn more here.

All week, we've been examining the role of play in the carceral state. There's a complementary side to that, and it's the surveillance state and the role of protest and a free press—the right of people in a free society to know what's happening and speak up against it. Those are the topics examined in Freedom Through a Lens, a short narrative game that puts you in the shoes of a freelance photojournalist covering a protest against an "anti-freedom law" (the game is never specific about what freedoms said law infringes upon, but it works).


In it, you walk around a protest in a bustling city square, talking to the few people who appear in color (most folks are mere outlines). You'll interact, get a few quotes from each person on why they are present and their opinion of the law and the protest, and take their photo, with their face blurred out.

By the end of the game, some unknown force—police? Some other apparatus of the surveillance state?—has messed up your camera, but you still have your memory card and the ability to publish.

The writing runs the risk of being somewhat on the nose—but nothing in this game feels out of place or anything other than an earnest attempt to examine the role of protest and freedom of the press in an increasingly toxic and authoritarian landscape.

Made for #ResistJam, you can download the game for free (or pay what you wish) on

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