Why we’re getting serious about nuclear weapons with Epic Orphan

Why are we focusing our current game project on nuclear weapons? Aren’t those not really an issue since the Cold War ended? North Korea’s missiles can’t even reach other countries, right?

In short, no! Upon partnering with the N Square initiative, we learned how pervasive the nuclear threat is, from the 11,800 nuclear weapons around the world to the untracked orphan materials that could be used to make even more weapons. (Not to mention a certain U.S. presidential candidate who has said he’s not afraid to use them!) So we launched a new initiative and partnered with Filament Games to develop a game that helps make conversation around nuclear weapons mainstream: Epic Orphan.

One year ago, Epic Orphan won our around nuclear weapons as the winning concept from writer Yvette Chin. Now, we’re turning to Kickstarter and crowdfunding the creation of this episodic adventure-puzzle game.

In the year since Epic Orphan won our N Square Game Design Challenge, Ploughshares Fund Director of Programs Paul Carroll has provided our team with in-depth background knowledge and key context around nuclear securities issues. He recently gave us a brief overview of the state of nuclear weapons in North Korea, whose weapons have gone from not-even-able-to-cross-the-ocean to a viable threat in a few short years.

Have any more questions about nuclear weapons and how Epic Orphan aims to portray these issues? Ask away in the comments or on Twitter with #EpicOrphan.


Why is the the issue of nuclear weapons in North Korea is so serious right now?

Paul Carroll: North Korea’s nuclear weapons are no longer a joke or something that “may happen” in a decade. It has stepped up the number of bomb and missile tests, and even though they may seem to be weak or “fail” the experts’ conclusions are that we have to assume they have several bombs and that some can be put on missiles that could reach South Korea, Japan or perhaps even US territory.


What are the potential outcomes or scenarios with North Korea?

Paul Carroll: While most agree that Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, is provocative and unpredictable, they also agree he is not suicidal. So, it’s not that we are worried he would launch an attack out of the blue. Instead, we are worried that the next time there is some kind of small conflict between North and South Korea – and they happen often — or when US military exercises happen there, there would be confusion that could lead to him launching an attack. Or, that the regime in Pyongyang may decide that they could sell their nuclear know-how or materials to someone — another nation or even a terrorist group. Given how stretched for money North Korea is, their nuclear expertise could bring them needed cash.


How will this be expressed in Epic Orphan? What choices will players face?

Paul Carroll: Suppose that you are visiting China, or maybe Myanmar. Or even that you are a nuclear investigator for the UN. During a visit to the region, you discover some unusual crates with radioactive markings, or notice Koreans in Rangoon or eastern China. Why are they there? As you begin to look into it, you find that Chinese front companies or maybe Burmese criminal networks have helped smuggle materials out of North Korea. This is not a fantasy, this has happened with conventional weapons and other illicit materials. What if it were nuclearbomb ingredients?!  What would you do?  Who would you call? How much time would you have?



Interested in learning more? Back our Kickstarter and spread the word about Epic Orphan! Thank you for reading!


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