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Warco game teaches war news reporting

They've got AK-47s, you've got a video camera.

Warco: The News Game has been designed to train journalists reporting from dangerous areas of active conflict.

You, journalist Jesse DeMarco, are armed with a video camera and flak jacket. You have to capture battles from the very same sand bags used as cover by the soldiers firing from behind them. Get too close and you'll die. Get too far back and you'll miss the action.

Famed reporter Tony Maniaty, the man who broke the Balibo Five murders story in 1975, is leading the project.

"Of course there's no way of replacing the ultimate experience of actually going into the 'hot zone', watching soldiers at war and even being shot at yourself," Maniaty told ABC News Onilne.

"Ultimately, no story is worth a life."

Tony Maniaty, former frontline journalist

"But games can be frighteningly realistic these days, and Warco's big plus in training terms is that we can introduce the risks in highly random ways, throw at players all kinds of dangers unexpectedly and watch their reactions, and see their resulting stories, and assess where they went right and where they went wrong."

"The trick in reality, as in Warco, is to balance the risks against the consequences, and to know when to stay and when to go, when to pull out. Ultimately, no story is worth a life."

Maniaty said that the relatively low gear costs today mean that "a lot of younger journalists freelance into war zones, hoping to crack a major story and accelerate their careers".

"That's understandable but also extremely dangerous," he said, "since few have had any security training and at best they learn from their errors - assuming they survive."

Australian developer Defiant Development is putting the game together, using funding supplied by Screen Australia and Screen New South Wales.

"They've got AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades - you've got a flak jacket, a video camera, and a burning desire to get the story," the game's blurb reads. "Every game space is embedded with multiple objectives and story leads for journalist Jesse DeMarco to find - a scoop if she's smart, mortal danger if she drops her guard."

"Record dramatic images of war, save them in-game, then edit the results into a compelling frontline TV news story. Beam the results to global audiences on the web.

"No two Warco stories will ever be alike. It's an edge-of-seat gaming experience - and a powerful entry-level training tool for future combat reporters."

The game's in proof of concept, prototype form. There are no specific platforms mentioned; we'd hazard a guess at PC. There's no word on a release date.

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Robert Purchese

Senior Staff Writer

Bertie is senior staff writer and Eurogamer's Poland-and-dragons correspondent. He's part of the furniture here, a friendly chair, and reports on all kinds of things, the stranger the better.

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