As night falls over the besieged city of Pogren, I once again set out from the shelter I share with my companions to scavenge for food, medicine and weapons to protect ourselves from nearby bandits. In the past few days, they’ve taken just about everything we had. Our food, clean water and even our books are now gone. Forever lost in a city that has been savaged for some time.
On this night, I come across an abandoned garage, or so I thought. As I enter this ramshackle ruin through a blown out hole in the side of the building, a man with a gun comes up to me. He needs medicine for his father and is willing to trade what he has if I’ve got any on my person.
After considering what he had to say, I draw my weapon, an axe, and beat him and his father to death. After staring at their corpses for a brief moment, I take their property and hurriedly run back to home. In my mind, I needed what they had more than they did. I was more important.
Thankfully I’ve never had to experience that kind of scenario in real life, but in This War of Mine, the new game from Polish developer 11 Bit Studios, I did. And strangely, I felt something whilst playing this game that I’ve never felt before in all my years of playing FPS’s and RPG’s. I felt guilty and even sad about what I had done to these fictional characters in a fictional city.
In so many war games, the player gets to live out a power fantasy that likely goes through the minds of most 11 year old boys at some point in the day. You get to be the strong and gruff hero, racing through tight corridors while firing your weapon at a group of people who usually have a different skin color than you and speak a different language. In those games, you never see the civilians who are likely cowering with fear in the buildings that your missed shots bounce off.
That’s what makes this small game so brilliant. In this piece, you’re not that clichéd hero. Instead, you’re an average Joe, caught up in a conflict that you don’t care for and don’t particularly understand. You have addictions, useless skills and are not particularly tough.
To the less intelligent gamer, that probably wouldn’t sound like a lot of fun. “You can’t win this game, it’s impossible”, they would whine. But you know what, that’s the point. In real war, you likely wouldn’t survive. There would be no happy ending for you, no post-credits scene of you lounging on a lawn chair while your wife cooks some food on the nearby barbeque in the yard.
So I encourage you dear reader, go pick up this game. It costs about $20.00 and I can assure you, it’s well worth the price. It may be tough to win, but you’ll learn a lot about yourself, some good things and some bad. You may not like the latter, but it’ll make you grow as a human being.