As much as I like a good war game or military shooter, I can’t help but feel that they’ve become awfully stale and repetitive lately. Turn on the news, look at any of the modern day conflicts happening in the world, and you get the idea that war is pretty bloody complicated. But most games do a really poor job of conveying that fact. Even the recent Call of Duty: Ghosts, with a story featuring a brutal conflict between the fictitious Federation and the United States, is devoid of refugees or civilians – You’ll just encounter wave after wave of hostile soldiers and military hardware. Battlefield 4 does a slightly better job, featuring an extended scene where the player’s home base, an aircraft carrier in the South China Sea, begins accepting refugees fleeing a nearby warzone. But other than that, the viewpoints of an armed conflict in a game are limited, and usually the same – that of a soldier.
Enter 11bit studios, famous for its Anomaly tower defense series, which just Wednesday announced This War of Mine, which has a unique approach to depicting war and conflict in a video game.
Instead of being an infantry grunt in the field or a special ops commando, This War of Mine puts players in control of group of civilians in the midst of a war-torn city. With opposing armies battling each other in the streets, your goal is to keep your group of non-combatants alive day to day. There isn’t a huge amount of detail as yet, but according to the description accompanying the trailer and announcment post, gameplay is focused on scavenging for food, medicine, weapons and other supplies for those residing in your refuge, along with upgrading your shelter and crafting items.
In a blog post accompanying the game, lead designer Michal Drozdowski explained that the game is inspired by real-life events, namely an article the team came across that described one man’s struggle to survive in a besieged city: “We learned about his hardships and the horror of that experience,” Drozdowski wrote. “We decided to work around this idea and make something real, something that moves people and makes them stop think for a second. It’s about time that games, just like any other art form, start talking about important things.”
All of this culminates into what I think is a fascinating concept for a game. Why? Well, for one, name a game in which you’ve played an average person who gets caught in a warzone where your only goal is to get you and your loved ones out of harm’s way and where combat isn’t the primary focus. Not many come to mind (if any). There are very few games that let us experience what life is like for the regular everyday people who get caught in the crossfire of an armed conflict. Like I said before, most of the time you’re playing a soldier, either from the past, present day, or future, with the option to be a resistance fighter of some sort occasionally thrown into the mix. But most of the time, the characters you play in war games or shooters are taking the fight to a faceless, generic enemy in environments strangely devoid of non-combatants. And outside of some sci-fi games, we rarely get the chance to play as a regular person (like Isaac Clarke or Gordon Freeman, an engineer and a theoretical physicist respectively) who gets drawn into a horrible circumstances. Suffice to say, it’s way past the time for us to get a game that shows us the often-overlooked viewpoint of what it’s like to live as a neutral party, just trying to stay alive and make it through the next day without tragedy.
This War of Mine is scheduled to arrive on PC later this year, with mobile versions due to launch afterwards. I, for one, am greatly looking forward to seeing it.