This week we’re mixing things up just a smidgen. Up until now all of our Monday games have come from Kickstarter and, while there’s nothing wrong with that, we decided to give Indiegogo a chance too (which means we’re going to need a new name for Mondays…”Indie Games that Need Your Help!”? “Indie Crowdsourcing Games”? “Indie Awesomeness”?…eh. We’ll work on that). Regardless of where it’s being hosted, this week’s game is something we’re really excited about. It is the poster child for what we believe games can and should be: we’re talking about Imagination is the Only Escape, a beautiful game about the horrors of the Holocaust.
Unfortunately, Imagination is the Only Escape has been the object of much controversy. There are those who do not believe games should tackle such severe, sensitive issues. Personally, I say bullshit. If this isn’t your cup of tea don’t play it, but don’t you dare say it shouldn’t have the chance to be made in the first place. Nothing about this (unlike a certain webcomic) is insulting in any way. It’s meant to be an educational, emotional tale.
You see, as a gamer I know just as much as you that there is nothing glamorous or “cool” about playing games, no matter how mainstream they have become. A key reason is that non-gamers don’t respect them as a valid way for adults to pass their spare time. Are they wrong? Well of course. I think games are fantastic and most of the time I’d rather play an interesting game than watch TV. But that doesn’t mean games have succeeded in living up to their film and novel predecessors. Games still have a long way to go so when we discovered this amazing, progressive game we were honestly quite shocked to see all the backlash. How are we going to show the world how brilliant games can be if every time we see them try to grow up they get shot down?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there’s nothing “mature” about most “mature” games these days. Nudity is not mature–it’s our natural state of being. There’s also nothing “mature” about violence. Mindlessly killing mobs or other players, however graphic, is not mature. It requires little to no thought and certainly doesn’t strive to give you an emotional connection. Games in this genre rarely aim to make you think or feel. They’re just adrenaline highs and I struggle to find anything mature about that.
“Ya know what is the greatest oxymoron in gaming to me M rated games with child level accessibility & intellectually insulting game mechanics”
But here we have something that, with our help, can be utterly amazing. Here we have a game that aims to educate us, not on what it would have been like to fight against the Nazis on the front-line (read: yet another shooter), but how the whole ordeal affected the people of Occupied countries.
Imagination is the Only Escape tells the story of a young boy named Samuel who’s a pretty normal, happy kid living in pre-Occupation Paris. His happiness is fated not to last when France is invaded by the Nazis and he and his family are forced to wear the Star of David. Fast forward to the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup in 1942. Samuel’s mother removes his Star and tells him to seek the Catholic priest who is helping Jews escape the city. As he flees his mother is murdered.
Samuel manages to escape and ultimately finds himself in southern France where a “Christian orphanage” is hiding and protecting Jewish children. In the woods surrounding his new home he escapes into his imagination to cope with the horrors around him. In this imagined land he meets Renard the Fox who tells him she can bring his mother back to life if he helps her to save the forest. Samuel’s imagined world is a beautiful place, making the atrocities happening in the real world that much more jarring and cruel.
Friday’s Question of the Week had to do with the pronounced lack of educational games for adults. If successful, this campaign could pave the way for games offering intellectual stimulation for more than just children. Just because you play as a child doesn’t mean Imagination is the Only Escape is in any way geared towards children alone. Depending on how horrifying it gets, this game could easily span all ages.
Children are smarter than adults often give them credit for. I don’t believe in protecting kids against the horror and evil of the world, because then what happens when something terrible occurs in their own lives? I’m not saying we should tell kids to expect evil around every bend, but a healthy dose of reality doesn’t seem out of place to me. Obviously not all children are on a level where they can handle such serious subjects but that’s on a child by child basis, not a generalization for children as a whole. This game would be a perfect way to not only spend some time with your child, but have some deep, serious discussions with them. You’ll only have this chance once so embrace it.
Imagination is the Only Escape is pivotal in so many ways. It is vital that it be funded so it can show the industry and consumers alike the power interactive stories have to educate about difficult and controversial topics. Games will forever remain a silly past-time for children unless we, gamers and designers alike, show the public and big publishers that this medium can be so much more than that. The interactivity of games can allow us to experience stories in ways that passively watching a film, reading a book, or even listening to music cannot. I would expect that to mean that games should often have me laughing aloud, gritting my teeth with hatred, or crying with happiness or despair. As of this writing I can think of only three games to have ever achieved any of those things while dozens of books are continuously doing so. I have had instrumental music touch me on a deeper emotional level than most games do.
It is time for games to step up to the plate. It is time for designers and publishers to step out of their narrow view of what games are and tap into the beauty and wonder that is awaiting them. With our help, Imagination is the Only Escape can revolutionize the stagnant game market and show the world the power of our beloved medium.