RIO DE JANEIRO – A Brazilian designer and teacher has created a series of games aimed at creating awareness about violence and impunity in Rio de Janeiro, a metropolis whose public-safety failures leave thousands dead every year.
The first of the series, “War in Rio” – an adaptation of the popular board game “Risk,” Fabio Lopez told EFE in an interview – replaces continents with favelas (slums) and armies with criminal commandos, the military police, militias and the feared Special Operations Battalion (Bope).
Lopez said he created the game a decade ago in a context of rising violence in the city but that “regrettably it’s just as relevant today.”
He said the controversy he sparked with “War in Rio” motivated him to continue his strategy of using games to provoke reflection on violence and impunity in the city.
In 2010, he created a version of “Monopoly” that was adapted to the workings of Rio’s militias – paramilitary organizations made up mostly of active-duty or retired police, prison guards and soldiers that operate in the favelas.
The most expensive properties are those in the city’s southern tourist zone, while the players must pay bribes, money is illegally funneled to election campaigns and a bad roll of the dice can result in a stay in Bangu, one of the most notorious prisons in the Rio metropolitan area.
Lopez also created his own version of “Battleship,” in which the sea has been substituted with favelas and shots are fired at police, criminals and even civilian victims, an attempt to reflect the reality of daily life in the slums surrounding Rio.
None of the games is intended for commercial sale; instead they are “projects aimed at prompting reflection on the daily tragedy of Rio de Janeiro,” he told EFE.
Even though his first game had “war” in its title, the designer said he was reluctant to use that word to describe the conflict in Rio.
“The term ‘war’ can be used as a rhetorical attempt by the state to justify actions that are military in nature or that restrict liberty,” he said.
“If it’s a war, it doesn’t occur in the entire city, but only in the poorest areas, in the favelas,” Lopez said, adding that the fight was not against drug dealing in general but instead was focused on certain sectors of society.
“Who is the enemy in this war? The poor, who have no future prospects. It’s a war against a social class, against a part of the city (that is) ... the victim of systemic social inequality,” he said.