Your country is in chaos. Death squads and gangs rule the streets. Your nearest relatives have been killed, and you fear you will be next. Selling your last possessions in exchange for passage on an unseaworthy vessel, you risk your life travelling across the world in search of a new beginning. But when you arrive, you are locked away in blatant defiance of UN laws. Those who have locked you away are acting illegally, but it is you who are treated as a criminal…

Woomera IRPC circa 2000

As a detainee at the infamous Woomera Detention Centre, you have a limited period of time in which to try and gain asylum, or if all else fails, plan and execute your escape into an uncertain world beyond the razor-wire fence. Time, bureaucracy and the mind, body and spirit-sapping conditions of this harsh and unforgiving environment place are ranged against you. The only real weapon at your disposal is hope.

If you thought escaping from Castle Wolfenstein was hard, try Woomera Immigration Reception and Processing Centre…

Utilising the familiar environment of a first person, 3D action-adventure game, Escape From Woomera invites gamers to assume the character of a modern day detainee, seeing the world through their eyes.

With the media effectively locked out of immigration detention centres, what goes on behind the razor-wire remains largely a mystery to the Australian public. We want to challenge this by offering an interactive, immersive glimpse of life within one of the most secretive and controversial places on the Australian political and geographical landscape.

Players will be compelled to learn more about their character’s situation and environment, in order to solve the game’s puzzles, thereby allowing further progress. Rewards will be based on unlocking new sections of the game, and a variety of outcomes will become available to the player.

Players must decide for themselves how positive or negative a particular outcome is for their character, or for their gameplay experience. Taking advantage of the unique attributes of gaming as an environment, players will be encouraged to play the game multiple times, trying different strategies in order to explore different possible outcomes.

Many of the real-life challenges faced by refugees within the mandatory detention system and the asylum application process will be translated into game-play elements to be experienced ‘first hand’ by the player. Using media archives and interview data collecting the untold stories of former detainees, we will model the detention centre as a three-dimensional game world. All key elements of the game – from the background histories of the characters to the consequences of the player’s actions, though fictional, will be inspired by real-world people and events.

As game developers we do not pretend to offer a political or ethical solution to the plight of refugees in detention. Therefore we have chosen to steer away from a value-loaded, clear-cut set of outcomes representing ‘winning’ or ‘losing’. Instead, we aim to set up a simulated environment where players are empowered to explore the possibilities, to be confronted with dilemmas: ‘What would I do in this situation? What might happen if I do that? How would that make me feel?’


- Play as any of a selection of detainee characters, each with their own special back-story, knowledge, capabilities, advantages and disadvantages.

- Realistic detention camp environments based upon ‘real world’ data.

- Fiendish problems and puzzles to solve.

- A selection of different objects to find and use.

- Numerous NPCs (Non-Player Characters) representing detainees, guards and , detention centre staff, each with unique ‘personality’ types.

- Interactive landscape which changes as events take place.

- A selection of missions to complete, spread across multiple real world environments.

- High-replayability factor, with multiple levels of game completion.


A young guy detained at the Maribyrnong centre used to escape periodically, through an air conditioning vent. He would go to the beach or shopping centre, and come back inside, up to 3 times a week.

"Whereas a flight game might use the same HUD, and fly over exactly the contours of the ground and buildings as in reality, like the Western news, won't often dwell on the atrocities caused by warfare… These video games based on genuine contemporary conflict, where the point of view is always a military one…play a part in the obfuscation of the real conditions…If games are to mature, then the themes explored must address the lack of any serious political enquiry."
– Matthew Southern in his Game Developers Conference Europe 2001 lecture "The Cultural Study of Games: More Than Just Games"