Others find it a valuable, if limited, approach to the conflict.
Andrea Stanton, a religious studies professor at the University of Denver who studies Syria, said she responded emotionally to the game.
‘‘It isn’t really a fun game to play,’’ she said, noting that she was angry when she lost and felt dread when the frequency of deadly regime airstrikes went up as the game progressed—as it has in the real conflict.
‘‘This a very sobering game in that you sense how quickly the military stakes escalate and how little the political phase has to do with actual Syrians,’’ she said.
She is organizing a campus activity for students to play and discuss the game.
‘‘I think it is very valuable for teaching and getting people to experience a sense of the limited options the rebels face,’’ she said.
It is unclear how many people have played the game. Google says it has been downloaded as many as 5,000 times from its site, and Rawlings says more have played online. He guesses more than 10,000 people have tried it.
Few in Syria are likely to have played it, since fighting has made the Internet and even electricity rare in some parts of the country.
One 18-year-old Syrian gamer liked the game so much, however, that he sent Rawlings a list of suggestions for improvement.
Reached via Skype, he said the jihadist fighters should be called Jabhat al-Nusra, after an extremist rebel group that the U.S. has designated as a terrorist organization.
He also pointed out that few rebel groups have tanks, as they do in the game, and suggested new rebel tactics.
‘‘Car bombs are used lots in Syria, so that would make the game more realistic,’’ he said.
He said he hoped the game would help people understand the situation.
‘‘I wish there were a 3D strategy game about Syria so you could feel the destruction on the ground,’’ he said.
The player, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said his feelings playing the game often mirror his feelings about the war. He wants peace but can’t imagine the rebels accepting a negotiated solution given how many people have died.
‘‘Right this second, I want the war in Syria to stop, but when you see what is happening on the ground there is no way to make peace,’’ he said. ‘‘When I play the game like a rebel, I have to reject the peace.’’
Associated Press writer Michael Liedtke contributed reporting.