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This War Of Mine and the challenges of making games about war

Speaking to The New Yorker, 11 Bit Studios reflects on why This War Of Mine is so unlike all other modern war games, and what burden designers bear for drawing inspiration from real conflicts.

Alex Wawro, Contributor

May 4, 2015

2 Min Read

"Video games have programmed us to see characters in games as enemies, or to believe that there is always a perfect solution, or even a riddle to be solved."

- By comparison, 11 Bit Studios' Michal Drozdowski explains to The New Yorker what This War Of Mine is not -- tidy, clear-cut or solvable.

When 11 Bit Studios announced last year that it was working on the grim survival game This War Of Mine, the team claimed it felt inspired to render some of the realities of war based on the stories of warzone survivors

The team's decision to design the game around believable, emotionally dynamic characters netted the game a Narrative nod and an Audience award at this year's Independent Games Festival, and in speaking to The New Yorker Michal Drozdowski, creative director for the project, notes that This War Of Mine may have stood out because its design is so unlike most modern military games.

"Our motivation wasn’t so much to create a natural opposite to many war games as to create a different kind of dramatic experience, something closer to a tragedy," said Drozdowski. "In This War of Mine, there is often no good or obvious choice. It’s always simply about trying to survive the night, in the hope that, in the morning, the guns will have stopped."

But what does it do to someone to make a commercial game about war? Author Simon Parkin points out that many contemporary games are designed to glorify modern warfare even as they fetishize depicting it realistically, and many game makers who draw inspiration from conflict -- including Activision and Wargaming -- are compelled to try and give back in some way.

"I think pop culture has trivialized war too far," Drozdowski told Parkin, in reference to 11 Bit Studios' recent partnership with the international charity organization War Child to raise money (via sales of a special This War Of Mine in-game art pack) to fuel humanitarian assistance for children impacted by war. "As pop-culture consumers, we’re all responsible for that."

For more, check out the full story over on The New Yorker's website.

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