The challenge of making war look different in video games

While virtual war simulations are pushing themselves closer to action and the smell of gunpowder, small Canadian studio 2Dogs Games offers to focus on another reality. “We don’t want players to experience what it’s like to be a soldier on the battlefield. No one wants to experience this because it is hell. Instead, we show what the character has to deal with later as he struggles to come to terms with what he’s been through.” says interviewer Ken Hall Wired.

Ken Hall is the creator The Sword of Destiny. The game has been available on PC in early release since October (a fuller release is currently planned for spring 2023). A California magazine specializing in geek culture sums it up: it’s a “A sci-fi adventure where players command a unit of futuristic peacekeeping troops. It’s not just about standing on the battlefield. You should also pay attention to the mental health of the unit.”

So the player, in the shoes of a hierarchical leader, must show empathy and ask the right questions, he adds. Wired. “Does anyone on your team suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder? from suffering? Who’s drinking? Who has bags under their eyes that mean they’re tired? Who has nightmares and spends his time fighting?”

Words of veterans

Ken Hall returned to the video game industry several years ago after devoting himself to other artistic pursuits. Wired. In the early part of his career, he worked on simulators that recreated the airspace of World War II. In this context, he interviewed eighty-year-old veteran pilots before focusing on armored vehicle drivers. From an ex-soldier who wakes up “Trying to get out of burning tank on bedroom floor” The magazine says that the expressions of the man who was panicked by the sound of thunder upset him.

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“What really gets me is that these people are not only suffering from their trauma, but that suffering is with them for the rest of their lives.”

We better understand the idea behind his new project that he started in 2017. “He wanted to make a game that showed not just the battles, but their long-term consequences.”

How to find your audience?

Ken Hall and his team’s interest in the topic of mental health is expressed on both sides of the screen. “While some big developers and publishers have psychologists who help design games with loops that lead to compulsive behavior, 2Dogs Games has a physiologist who makes sure that doesn’t happen.” The American newspaper is surprised.

In other words, in a mechanism close to money betting, there are no random rewards that encourage you to repeatedly try your luck, and the feeling of risking a loss of performance when you leave the game – on the contrary, it provides. wired, everything is planned to encourage you to avoid excessively long sessions.

Will such a proposal find its audience? This isn’t the first title to incorporate character psychology into game mechanics. ” with the sword of fate, mental health is discussed so openly and openly that it’s no longer entertainment, it’s education.” This explains the timidity of investors who see the commercial risk in taking a contrarian view for triple A (video game blockbusters).

“When you make a nicer, smoother game, there are financial implications,” abstract Wired. And it’s worth noting that the studio had hoped to raise $10 million (about €9.7 million) from investors, but had to settle for $1.5 million (€1.4 million), two-thirds of which came from the Canadian Media Foundation. – a private partnership organization that supports creativity in the country.

Since then, The Sword of Destiny can be seen as a niche product. Psychologist Raffael Boccamazzo, who knows the game community well and has worked as a consultant on this topic, wants to believe that its originality will arouse interest and interest.

“The idea that you must first manage your unit’s mental health and interpersonal relationships to be optimally effective is unique. I can’t think of another game that’s attempted something like that.”

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