A Day in Tibet

March 16, 2008

I’ve been thinking about writing up brief guidelines for playing Emily Care Boss’ A Day in the War, but set during the riots currently going on in Tibet and nearby provinces. There are so many horrifying-and-yet-important stories to tell, many of which will not get much airtime in all the focus on the larger “Tibet vs. China” issues. But games can do small-scale, personal stories better than the news media, I think.

You could play a Tibetan monk or nun who was involved in the early peaceful protests, trying to figure out how to react to both the harsh crackdown by Chinese security forces and the violent ethnic nationalism and race riots of your fellow Tibetans, wondering how what was supposed to be a peace movement suddenly became so bloody and dangerous.

You could play a Han security officer from a middle-sized city on the east coast who agreed to move out to Tibet because the pay was better. You’d be surrounded by an environment in which any situation involving Tibetans (and, in Tibet, most situations do) is viewed as inherently dangerous, because almost all male Tibetans carry ceremonial knives. This is a big deal in a country where policemen often go unarmed. Maybe you could even be Buddhist and not be sure how you feel about using riot tactics (tear gas, clubs) against monks.

You could play one of the growing number of Hui (another Chinese minority) Muslims in Lhasa, struck by a chunk of concrete thrown by an angry Tibetan mob, watching, bleeding as your mosque is burned down, even though you have nothing to do with Chinese policies in Tibet and may not like Han people much either.

You could be a poor Han shopowner, recently arrived in Tibet because your family was starving in rural Gansu, but here you could get a loan to open a store selling instant ramen, bottled water, and sunflower seeds to Han tourists in the old Tibetan quarter. Maybe one of your children was burned to death when rioters set fire to your shop and you struggled to get everyone out alive.

And, of course, you could play a rioting Tibetan youth, sick of the Chinese government’s oppressive policies in Tibet, sick of Han immigration into Lhasa, angry at the growing number of Hui Muslims in the central city of Tibetan Buddhism. In one hand, you have a chunk of concrete; in the other, a can of petrol. You left your knife at home, so no one would get hurt, but you do think that it’s time someone scared these invaders a bit…

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