Publisher: 11 Bit Studios
Year Made: 2014
Platforms: PC, OS X, Linux
Content Areas: Social Studies, English
Suggested Age Level: Upper High School
Play Length: 7-8 hours
Number of Players: Single Player
Difficulty Rating: Medium
Warning: Violence, Drinking and Smoking, Profanity, Mature themes (see the review for details)
Some of the most popular video game franchises glorify war and let players become heroic soldiers fighting off terrorism/zombies/Nazis/all of the above. In 11 Bit Studios’ game This War of Mine, the tables are turned and players are left nearly helpless in the face of war. Inspired by the plight of civilians caught in the Bosnian conflict, This War of Mine is a simulation and survival game that puts players in charge of a ragtag group of survivors that have banded together with one goal: survive until peace is reached. By day, the survivors fortify their home and craft items from what few resources they have. By night, they risk their lives as they scavenge, trade, and raid to avoid certain death.
Given the nature of its violent topic, This War of Mine deals with several mature themes through the decisions made. At one point in a playthrough, players could choose to intervene and stop a soldier from sexually assaulting a woman or save themselves and ignore what is going on. While players never see anything explicit, the topic and others like it, such as suicide (which characters can commit if they lose all hope), could be triggering for some students and the class should be given a fair warning that they could experience those scenarios. There is some profanity in the game, but it is not very frequent. Finally, the game can be rather long as a single playthrough lasts anywhere between thirty to as high as fifty days. For most players, the first playthrough doesn’t last long though. (I only made it to Day 16 before I lost everyone to either untreated wounds, suicide, or they just left.) If you want students to play all the way through, it will take a while, even if they only make it to Day 20.
In any unit on modern war, This War of Mine would provide an excellent alternate view as civilians experience it. The number of decisions made and the intense difficulty of a first playthrough lead to plenty of opportunities to discuss experiences in the game and provide an opening for examining primary sources. In my own classroom, I also heavily emphasize finding a way to improve the world with what you learn or at least extend your thinking to it. 11 Bit Studios are a prime example of helping the world at large after the release of their downloadable content (DLC) for the game. Players paid anywhere from 0.99 to 5.99 for artwork to be added to the game, and all of the proceeds were donated to the charity War Child, which helps children in war-torn areas. Not only is this a real-world example for students to see how to help those around them, but it could open the possibility for a service learning project that would center around these issues.
As the game grimly reminds us, “In war, not everyone is a soldier.” While other games glorify war and conflict, This War of Mine presents a haunting version that is far more realistic and heard far less often than it should be.
Educational Rating: 8/8
(Classroom Tech Friendly, Motivation, Concrete Learning, Additional Skills, Feedback, Difficulty, Accessibility, Extension)
Overall Rating: 7/8
(Immersion, Environment, Storyline, Replayability, Entertainment, Gameplay, Originality, User Control)