I Was A “Capable Cleric” At An Exhibition To Mark 40 Years Of Total Defence

We discovered our inner hero at this special exhibition at the Singapore Discovery Centre.

By Sean Yee        21 February 2024

The year 2024 marks the 40th anniversary of Total Defence in Singapore. Since its launch in 1984, Total Defence has rallied Singaporeans together in responding to challenges that threaten Singapore’s independence and well-being, such as Covid-19, both physical and cyber threats, terrorism and economic downturns.

Joining an array of islandwide initiatives paying tribute to the occasion is Singapore Discovery Centre’s special complimentary exhibition — Total Defence For Thee!

On till 17 March 2024, this role-playing game (RPG)-inspired gallery puts Singapore’s Six Pillars of Total Defence in the spotlight through an exploration-driven narrative that involves role-playing and decision-making. This is in addition to the centre’s wide array of attractions, which include a 4D Motion-Ride, an expansive Escape Room, a Laser Tag arena and many more!

Time to chart your own course

Entrance of Total Defence For Thee!, Singapore Discovery Centre's latest exhibition

Singapore Discovery Centre takes the six pillars of Total Defence – Military, Civil, Economic, Social, Digital and Psychological – and brings them to life in an interactive multimedia journey that empowers you to be the author of your own chapter. 

Total Defence For Thee! takes you on a quest infested with lurking “dangers” that seek to undermine our nation’s defences. And do not assume these threats to be totally martial in nature; some intend to break down our social and psychological walls as well. 

It took me a while to get the clever wordplay weaved into its moniker – ‘For Thee!’ alluding to 40 years of Total Defence.

Something’s amiss

Complete the puzzle for pins styled after Total Defence

As you head towards the Total Defence For Thee! exhibition, you’ll notice six interactive pillars sitting solemnly across the hallway. Do not be fooled by their innocuous appearance; they each conceal a cryptic code that protects a malicious menace which threatens the fabric of our society. We missed a few ourselves on our first trip here! 

These menaces to society reminded us of the part that Psychological Defence plays — our people must have trust in one another and faith in government, so as to stay resilient against forces aimed at sowing discord.

Make sure to catch all 5 heads!

Defeat this enigmatic foe using your wits and be rewarded when you present your findings at Singapore Discovery Centre’s main counter. (Spoiler: It’s a pin!)

Choose your path

Choose one of 7 archetypes at SDC's Total Defence For Thee!

True to any role-playing adventure, the exhibition begins with you picking your hero. Aptly represented by six critical attributes (Constitution, Dexterity, Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma), profiling is done via an intuitive questionnaire presented on a touchscreen or a scanned QR code.  This will determine your key attribute, which will be invaluable in your attempts to circumvent the various challenges that await you. 

Prefer to weather through the storm? The Plucky Pathfinder knows his way around. One to exchange swords and daggers for riveting stories and tales? The Brilliant Bard is a scribe willing to traverse the many planes for her repertoire of legends. Hungry to jump straight into the fray? Equip yourself with a shield and spear as a Valiant Paladin looking to right the world’s many wrongs.

I really wanted to be a Savvy Sentinel, but the system decided that I was better suited as the Capable Cleric. Oh well, perhaps I might get it on my next trip down!

There are over seven RPG archetypes to choose from, each of whom promises a different path in a shared realm. 

Set forth!

Your every decision matters in Total Defence For Thee!

This isn’t a predetermined narrative with a single conclusion. Every decision and every roll will change the dynamics of this ever-changing labyrinth. Speaking of rolls, the choices that are presented before you will require dice rolls – a pivotal mechanic that is integral in any RPG.

Everything is left to chance at SDC's latest exhibition

Here is where your chosen hero matters; his or her primary attribute will provide you either an advantage or disadvantage with your rolls! And trust me, these small bonuses really add up when like me, you constantly roll critical misses. 

Part of a collective effort

A happy ending for heroes

Thankfully, my journey ended on a positive note. The main foe (no spoilers!) is defeated with your help and that of the many adventurers that have come before you. Be assured that like every legendary RPG adventure, the fight ends with treasure and glory!

Having played the game, it has shown me that resilience is the name of the game — you’ve got to bob, weave, and laugh in the face of adversity, just like my avatar did when faced with the really tough choice of going to the gym instead of dinner!

Create your own avatar and pick a pledge!

At the journey’s epilogue, you’ll get to customise an avatar which will be presented on a wide screen alongside your declared pledge.

Join countless others and work together to protect the nation

Think of it as a hall of heroes where their conquests (as well as yours) are immortalised so that the many who will come after you know that they are not alone in this fight. You’ll also get a nifty-looking pin to bring home as well! There are three in total so make sure to collect them all. 

A well-deserved repose

SDC's permanent exhibition - Through the lens of time

Even the most battle-hardened warrior needs their rest! Regain your strength by popping by at Through the Lens of Time, as you revisit some of Singapore’s most important moments in history, projected on big screens.

Singapore's history on the big screens

It was amazing to witness the entire gallery light up with vivid imagery and an enchanting storyteller who regaled my friends and me with tales about some of the key people and moments in the building of our nation. This permanent exhibition is a must-visit for any history buff! 

These people are like the original superheroes, but instead of capes, they’ve got blueprints and determination! They battled mosquitoes, the tropical heat, and the occasional wild boar, all while laying the groundwork for what was to become one of the world’s leading financial hubs and the most livable city in Asia. Talk about a workout! And you thought your gym routine was tough. They didn’t just build buildings; they helped lay the foundation for what we would eventually become. Now that’s what I call a ‘constructive’ use of time!

SDC's 4D ride promises a great time

The XD Theatre Ride, Singapore Discovery Centre’s in-house 4D simulation ride was quite the surprise! 

Packed with over seven narratives to choose from, it has everything from a simulated military attack (Operation Lightning Crush) to a heartwarming narrative detailing the stories of NSmen (What You Cannot Defend, You Do Not Own). We went for a Jurassic Park-inspired high-speed pursuit (Dino Safari 2) and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart! 

At the end of a chapter, a new one begins

SDC's escape room

Heroes know that the fight is a perennial one. You and your gang of adventurers may have conquered a sinister foe, but that doesn’t mean you get to rest on your laurels!

Solving puzzles at SDC's Escape Room

The Black Lake Facility, possibly the largest escape room in Singapore, hides a chamber of harrowing secrets, horrifying evils, and unexplainable phenomena across four heart-racing chapters. From a reactor that threatens to blow up to a dark and portentous basement with a depraved presence, this massive escape room promises an afternoon of revelations and thrills! 


SDC's laser tag, go solo or with a team

You have gone through an entire day outsmarting your foes with sheer wit and gumption. Now, it’s time to put on your armour vest and prepare for a firefight! The Black Lake Laser Battlefield will pit your team against all odds, as you protect your perimeters against a relentless wave of enemies. Equipped with just a laser tag rifle, your battalion will need to work together to find your bearings in a lawless arena while avoiding the crossfire. 

SDC's laser tag requires quick thinking and strategic maneuvers

For us, we weren’t meant to be conformed to a team. My friends and I opted for its Solo Free-For-All mode, where we compete with other wayward rebels to be the king of the hill. 

It reminded us NSmen of the times we were belly-rolling, cover-taking, section and fire moving machines! We were so good, I bet our BMT sergeants would’ve shed a proud tear.

A delicious end to a great day

Grabbing a meal at Bottle Tree Cafe Restaurant.

Be rewarded for a day of intrigue and refuel with heartwarming zi char staples by the Bottle Tree Cafe Restaurant. Some of its signature dishes include its Seafood Hor Fun, Buttermilk Chicken with Rice, and Prawn Paste Chicken Wings. For spice lovers like myself, I highly recommend its Curry Rice set! The gravy is incredibly aromatic without being overpowering. 

Bottle Tree Cafe Restaurant signatures include its Buttermilk Chicken with Rice and Hor Fun

Oh, and don’t forget to pair your meals with an ice-cold glass of sinfully sweet Teh Peng! 

Singapore Discovery Centre: 510 Upper Jurong Road, Singapore 638365

Total Defence Special: Until 29 February 2024, enjoy 1-for-1 activities with the promo code <TD401FOR1>

SAFRA EXCLUSIVE: Until 31 December, members enjoy a 10% discount when booking Singapore Discovery Centre’s various attractions with the promo code <10SAFRA1>. They also enjoy 10% off at shop@SDC. 

You can find more information at safra.sg/promotions/sdc

Save more with SAFRA! Enjoy special deals and discounts on dining, entertainment, travel, fitness and more from over 1,500 merchant outlets islandwide. Sign up or renew your SAFRA membership for one year at $43.60 inclusive of GST) and get two years FREE! Plus, get your spouse and children on board to enjoy the same privileges too at $5.45/year. Visit safra.sg/savemore for more details.

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