The mobile game funding a revolution in Myanmar
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Ko Toot became so angry after soldiers in Myanmar arrested his friend and his pregnant wife after the February 2021 coup that he joined efforts to remove the military from power.

His app-based mobile game based on “real events” in the country has proved a hit, incentivizing the ruling junta and raising funds for the anti-military resistance.

Ko Toot said that the couple, who were detained for supporting democracy, had never committed a single crime.

He had no idea what had happened to them. Despite being held for about a year and a half, the woman was released within a day, according to the BBC.

Following their arrest, Ko Toot learned the military had detained the wife and infant daughter of a pro-democracy activist.

I felt my blood boil when I imagined myself as a young child growing up in a dirty, stressful, and sadistic prison.

An IT professional, Ko Toot, decided he had to take part in the movement to oust the “cruel and dangerous” military – and created his own game.

Ko Toot provided the BBC with a text message on an encrypted app and refused to reveal his location. For his safety, we are using a pseudonym. Following the coup, Myanmar descended into a full-scale civil war.

Since then, more than 4,000 people have been killed by the military, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. UN officials say the death toll is likely to be far higher.

The military has acknowledged losses but has not provided a number. BBC has not verified the claim that 20,000 soldiers have been killed by the exiled National Unity Government.

The purpose of Ko Toot’s campaign was to raise money for arms and humanitarian aid for the People’s Defense Forces (PDF), as well as raise awareness about the situation in the country. Early in 2022, he launched his game as The PDF Game.

Players watch in-game ads to raise money, and Ko Toot estimates proceeds raised so far total at least $508,000 (£403,000).

Currently, he earns between $70,000 and $80,000 per month, and the number is “increasing every month”.

A PDF soldier fights against military troops, and players participate in missions similar to those in Myanmar.

Ko Toot said he created characters based on real people fighting the military, including doctors, Muslims and members of the LGBT community.

Documenting them was important because “they are fighting in a real war”.

The game is available on both the Google and Apple app stores, although it had faced issues due to the companies’ policies around sensitive events, Ko Toot said.

“I felt that we had very limited international help and awareness,” he said, comparing the coverage of the crisis in Myanmar unfavourably with that of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.