September 12th: A Toy World

Release Date: 2003

Developer: Newsgaming, Gonzalo Frasca

Conveys a timeless maxim: violence begets more violence.



Play the Game:

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The New York Times described September 12th as “An Op-Ed composed not of words but of actions”. This newsgame became a viral hit by exposing the futility of the US-led War on Terror. Created by a team of Uruguayan game developers lead by a former CNN journalist, this was the first game of the series that coined the term newsgame.

The project’s main idea was to use the language of videogames to describe current events while conveying a timeless maxim: violence begets more violence. The player controls what seems to be a sniper rifle target but, when clicked, launches missiles. The bombs not only kill the terrorists but also generate so-called “collateral damage”. When civilians mourn the innocent dead they soon turn into terrorists. After a couple of minutes, this Middle-Eastern village is destroyed and crawling with terrorists. The player soon realizes that there is no way to win the game through shooting.

The game’s main goal was not to convince people that the War on Terror was wrong. Instead, it aimed at triggering discussion among young players. Indeed, that’s what happened in multiple online forums. The game was highly controversial when it launched, generating threats and mild or negative reviews. As the War on Terror went sour, its popularity grew exponentially. Today, September 12th has been exhibited in museums and galleries all over the world and has been used by teachers as a tool for discussing terrorism.


Gonzalo Frasca,


  1. 10
    Tom Mowbray
    Total Game Reviews: 30

    Very interesting and shocking game. The more you shoot the faster you create new terrorists. Historic for 2003; invented the art of news-gaming.

  2. 2
    Total Game Reviews: 3

    This game does an excellent job of showing that generally, any attempt to get rid of something we see as a problem makes the problem worse. Every attempt to shoot a terrorist results in the death of an innocent, which in turn creates more terrorists, etc. Great political commentary.

    From a gaming perspective, however, the game is pretty bad (hence the score). It has only one mechanic, a long cooldown, and you quickly get bored. If you want people to play it more than once, add in different management systems based on real actions.

    Strike teams you can send in for specific targets but result in soldiers dying, and you have to write a letter home to their family. US buildings that, if pushed far enough, the populace will turn against and destroy. Reports from employees describing that they fear for their lives due to the aggression against them any time they go outside. Have a meter showing the populace’s opinion of you, and how it drops drastically every time you do anything. Local leaders you can overthrow and replace with democracy, or choosing dialogue options during a press release about any of the previously listed incidents.

    If you’re going to go with the video game medium, make it interactive enough to warrant it. As is, this message would have been better sent through a video or an essay.

  3. 10
    Total Game Reviews: 2

    A powerful anti-game that everyone needs to experience. More difficult than you think.

  4. 8
    Total Game Reviews: 1

    Re-played this just now, and it feels even more chilling since Army Pfc. Bradley Manning leaked video of American Soldiers carrying out the business of death from an extremely similar point of view.

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