CHOOSE YOUR OWN SINGAPORE is an alternate history text-based game, in which players determine the shape of this island by embracing powerful and divergent ideas, as they navigate the years of self-rule leading up to the merger with Malaysia and independence.
This work was a submission to the Heritage Game Jam, for which #CYOS won a Sagakaya Special Award! Going forward, I’m hoping to make it an open history project, and call upon others to participate in the game’s development by sharing your thoughts and perspectives on the different paths our island could have taken in history.
Why Alternate History?
In the wake of the 2020 Singaporean General Elections, I found myself wondering what our island could look like — what alternate realities we could be living in; if we had only taken a different path. #CYOS is the (incomplete) product of that pondering, inspired by Singapore’s political history from the 1950s onward.
I picked this era because this was the period of decolonisation that saw the birth of self-rule and political contestation in our former colony. From trawling through newspaper archives and speech transcripts, the 1950s seemed like a time of great uncertainties and immense possibilities. What would the island have looked like if we had rejected colonialism outright? If we had embraced the ideology that prompted the Malayan Emergency?
Sadly, the game as it stands now only covers the period leading up to independence, due to the constraints of the game jam’s 7-day period. I’ll continue working on this project and continue expanding on the game’s timeline.
The Importance of Ideas
A core design principle of this project is that ideologies should take centre-stage. Though our nation (often) prides itself on technocratic and value-neutral pragmatism, the island we live on today is built upon a marriage of many powerful and often-contradictory ideologies. Capitalism. Neoliberalism. Corporatism.
To claim that we operate in an absence of ideas is misleading, and ignores the many points in our history that determined the shape of our ideology. #CYOS thus frames the most important player decisions as picking and choosing the different values and ideas that should and shouldn’t matter to a state, and reaping the outcomes of it.
Developing an Open History
As a project seeking to challenge monolithic understandings of history, I want to be mindful that I don’t end up creating my own monolithic perspective on history. As a result, I’ve added a link to the footer of each page, allowing readers to submit their thoughts, suggestions and comments.
If you have ideas for options, links to historical sources or anything you would like to share, please do! I’ll be sharing updates on this in the future!
In the end, if all this project manages to achieve is to raise the question in a player’s mind — what could’ve been? — then I will be a very happy game developer.