Terror in Seyland is a game that simulates terrorism and government responses to those acts and organizations. It is, at it’s heart, a tool for understanding conflict. Sarah Jameel, the writer for Terror in Seyland, was a student at the inception of the project and created an academic exercise where the participant gets to decide early on if they want to play the Government of Seyland (long embattled) or the local terrorist organization (fighting for the rights of the people, but doing so violently).
If you treat this game as an intellectual exercise, then you can more freely choose between either play style. However, if you approach this from a moral position, it becomes difficult to choose the terrorists at the beginning (their hands are seemingly already wet with blood) and to choose several of the options presented to the Seyland government. On the second point, this decision feels entirely intentional. The easy way, intellectually, would be to bomb the terrorists bases, to seek them out and to root them out in their mountain caves, so to speak. To talk, even when you think they have bombed a school bus of children, an attack you cannot verify, is much more difficult. It is these decisions, these points of conflict, where Terror in Seyland rises to the occasion.
The writing is perhaps the weakest point in Jameel’s story. She is a capable writer, but her tone fits more an academic paper or textbook rather than a political thriller. Before you get into the story, you are inundated with information about the region, some of which I never used. It is also peppered with what felt like unintentionally hilarious bits of text, like the one below:
A monarchy throughout most of its history, Souldagesh was ruled by the King Kong dynasty of kings from 1768.
These are the points where Jameel’s writing chops come into question.The history forward feels like a sloppy Silmarilion, and about as interesting and relevant to the rest of the plot. It definitely suffers from a tell rather than show dynamic where instead of weaving ethnic tensions and a lengthy history into the playable sections there is a large text dump at the beginning.
The strengths in Terror in Seyland are in the decisions, in the nitty gritty moments. Nothing about the game is easy, and that is part of what make sit interesting and engaging. There is also a lot of accompanying text, including a video, on one of the more polished sites I’ve seen for a piece of interactive fiction. If nothing else, it’s worth a look over.