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'Games that portray the war as fun... that's more of an issue.'

Imagination is the Only Escape is considered controversial for exploring the atrocities of the Holocaust. However, developer Luc Bernard believes games which celebrate World War II are the ones with the questionable taste level.
Luc Bernard's Imagination is the Only Escape first made waves in 2008, when the New York Times ran a profile on the game implying (erroneously) that its subject matter -- the Holocaust -- had caused it to be rejected from Nintendo's then-contemporary DS platform. Recently, the title has reemerged, thanks to a crowdfunding campaign and renewed interest in the press. But are concerns once voiced about its subject matter at all valid? "To be honest with you I find a title like the new Wolfenstein with robot Nazis to be more [offensive] than this title," Bernard tells Gamasutra. "If people accept games that portray the war as fun I think that's more of an issue." Imagination is the Only Escape takes the perspective of a young Jewish boy, who -- in a manner similar to Papo & Yo or Life is Beautiful -- escapes into his imagination to rationalize the horrors around him. About his subject matter, Bernard is grimly pragmatic and direct. "I can already spoil the ending for you in a way: it ends realistically, which means it's not a happy one." In light of the current funding campaign, the game's subject matter, as in 2008, has become a productive hook for garnering interest. "I think it [just shows] that maybe people are ready for a change," Bernard offers, when asked what he thought of the press coverage's tendency to focus on the controversial subject matter. "I don't think it's gotten that much attention. But it seems the reaction people have gotten so far is that they support such a title." Nevertheless, Bernard recognizes the importance of treating a subject like the Holocaust with a deft touch. "This title shows history, facts, things that actually happened... I am making sure with each part of it, that it's done the right way, and that people who were there during that period also agree with it. I never was scared to tackle such a subject, because I believe it's something that should be shown." Bernard isn't alone, as he is all too aware. He notes he's seen other games tackle weighty subjects, although most felt like "smaller experiments, not full blown games" to him. He says he's looking forward to Ryan Green and Josh Larson's That Dragon, Cancer, which we also covered recently, to see how that handles its subject matter. In all, Bernard says he'd prefer it if some games -- or interactive experiences, in his words -- were a little more serious. "If our medium shows Nazis as robots and other ridiculous things but doesn't show really what they did -- the mass genocide of all kinds of people -- then I think it's those developers who are mocking the Holocaust," Bernard added. "That is really what offends me the most now."

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