This War of Mine
War has been a popular theme in games since even before Wolfenstein 3D equipped players with a pistol and gave them a mission to kill evil Nazi soldiers. There was a lot of controversy over the killing of enemy soldiers, especially as the action was seen through the eyes of the protagonist, one William “B.J.” Blazkowicz, but the game went on to become a bestseller and spawned many imitators. War games have since only increased in popularity and players have been thrust into almost every conflict that this planet has experience both historical and fictional. The Call of Duty series alone has built a reputation on casting players as elite soldiers or combat operatives experiencing everything from World War 2 to modern warfare.
It is not just first person shooters that continually draw upon war as a source of inspiration, but strategy titles as well. Games like World in Conflict, Ruse, and Company of Heroes give you control over military units and squadrons with which to take down your enemies by any means necessary. As realistic as many of these games are. they tend to follow the Hollywood portrayal when it comes to war. Most games feature big explosions, dramatic shootouts and heroes that can take multiple gunshots and still keep fighting (after ducking behind cover to catch their breath of course.) One thing that these games tend to overlook though is the civilians that are so often caught in the crossfire.
An upcoming Indie game aims to present a view of war that is far removed from what players see through the eyes of the elite soldiers that usually portray the lead roles. Instead, players have to command a group of civilians that are just trying to survive in a city that is under military siege. With snipers shooting at anything that moves during the day, you are restricted to leaving your refuge at night in order to scavenge for items that can help your group to survive.
Although the developers, 11 Bit Studios, known for their Anomaly: Warzone Earth series, have gone in a different direction with This War of Mine, which aims to deliver a serious and mature game. It is not a game about firing your gun and scoring kills for fun, but having to make the moral choices that will keep your group alive. The game doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to showing the effects of war. You might encounter other survivors that are desperate for food and then have to decide whether to trade with them or put the welfare of your own group ahead of the needs of others.
This War of Mine is quite an ambitious project for the ten person team at 11 Bit Studios, but it is clearly something that they are very passionate about. The game wants you to care about each survivor and do your best to keep them alive because if they die there is no coming back. Your survivors will grow tired, cold and hungry as you assign them to scavenge or guard your hideout. The contents of buildings are also procedurally generated, so each time you start a new game you have no idea what your survivors are going to face.
As the game is still in early development, it will be interesting to see if 11 Bit Studios succeeds in their goal to realistically portray the perils of civilians trapped in a warzone. It is certainly a thought provoking title and hopefully one that will inspire more meaningful conversations amongst gamers than the usual talk about what the best guns are for killing enemies. This War of Mine is not going to be a game for everyone, but it can prove that our industry can do better than just glorifying the killing that happens during war.