How War of Heroes - The PDF Game is funding the revolution in Myanmar

The game has raised more than $508,000 to fund the People’s Defence Forces

How War of Heroes - The PDF Game is funding the revolution in Myanmar

We’ve written previously about the potential gaming has to advance social causes, and now one game, known variously as War of Heroes and War of Heroes - The PDF Game, is directly funding the revolution in Myanmar.

The game’s creation was inspired by several arrests by the government’s military - notably the arrest of developer Ko Toot’s friend and his pregnant wife, as well as the wife and infant daughter of a pro-democracy activist it had been unable to locate.

"Imagine you are a young child and you grow up inside a dirty, stressful and sadistic prison, and you have no idea what's going on. It made my blood boil," said Toot.

Originally released in early 2022 as the People’s Defence Forces Game, the game features characters based on actual members of the People’s Defence Forces, who are working against Myanmar’s government. The group includes people from diverse backgrounds, including members of the queer community, doctors, and Muslims.

Ko Toot estimates that the game has generated over $508,000 to date, with between $70,000 and $80,000 of revenue every month funding the PDF’s real-life efforts, as well as providing humanitarian support. The game has been downloaded almost a million times by the developers estimates, with over 500,000 on Google Play.

War games

The game has faced significant hurdles in raising awareness, however. The game was renamed to War of Heroes - The PDF Game on Google Play, with the tech giant concerned that the game may violate its guidelines which disallows games that “capitalise on or are insensitive toward a sensitive event”. However, it allowed the game as it “intends to alert users or to raise awareness” regarding the conflict in Myanmar.

On the App Store, however, the game was renamed to War of Heroes and eventually removed from sale entirely, due to Apple guidelines which state that games cannot solely target a “real world government, corporation, or any other real entity”. The game has since been reinstated following amendments, including the removal of some missions and amendments to original artwork.

Myanmar’s ruling military junta - which rules the country following the coup d’etat in February 2021 - has taken note of the game, accusing so-called “terrorist organisations” such as the exiled National Unity Government, issuing a notice in April that members of the public could face prosecution for playing the game.

The notice states that games such as The PDF Game “create a false impression of the military and unconsciously increase the desire for revolution among the young people.”

To this end, the regime shut down all online games that either celebrate or outright fund the PDF’s revolutionary efforts within the country, including not just The PDF Game but others such as PDF Hero and End Game - Union. This ban is being enforced by local authorities, who have set up security checkpoints to inspect the phones of the population and attempt to educate players about the dangers of playing the titles.

Last year, the Iranian government banned Clash of Clans due to concerns that activists could use the game to coordinate protests.

Staff Writer

Lewis Rees is a journalist, author, and escape room enthusiast based in South Wales. He got his degree in Film and Video from the University of Glamorgan. He's been a gamer all his life.