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This War of Mine

This review of mine is concerned chiefly with the exploration of the uncomfortable videogame. We have been faced with a certain kind of war videogame for years that is jingoistic, morally deplorable, and more concerned with the ego of the player than the portrayal of the weight of the material. This War of Mine cuts right through our expectations and creates the thing that many critical corners of the internet have been clamoring for. It is an ugly thing to want and to consume but therein lies its critical importance.

It is not a pretty thing. Our palate is washed over in dehumanizing grays and charcoal strokes. For much of our time we are locked into a single home where we feel trapped in by the war. The designers feelings about it are bluntly signposted on a rock that sits outside, scrawled with ‘Fuck the war’. We are introduced to a set of survivors that are probably not going to make it. They are realistically drawn into this environment and sick with gray to match their surroundings. They show only expressions of sorrow and pain, progressively broken and sickened by forces stronger than their humanity. It is a videogame about the breaking of the human spirit.

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The inevitability of This War of Mine is that there is going to be some suffering. It tasks us with the maintenance of characters’ livelihoods. We are set with the objective to live out wartime in some dystopian wasteland that shows an absolute deterioration of all parts of society. Everything has been lost and what is left is to maintain against the grim, oppressive wartime. There is no getting ahead and probably everyone is going to die. As days pass, it becomes increasingly unlikely that anyone is going to make it through the thing.

Play is never exactly made fun or rewarding for the player. We manage the day-to-day activities of our survivors and by night we may scavenge for tools and resources that may keep them in food and construction over the course of the war. There are outside threats, that our home might be invaded while we are out invading for ourselves. There are abstract reflections of our actions. If we steal from our neighbors, it will not only completely alter their well-being but also have a mental cost on our characters. Only gray areas, no black and white.

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This War of Mine is a soul crushing thing to consider as entertainment. It is going to make you feel bad and absorb the consequences of your actions. It exists as a piece of indie expression that shows the actual grayness that is inherent in all conflict. There is no winning. We cannot feel good about how everything plays out. It is through this breaking down of the human spirit that This War of Mine uniquely expresses something new for the medium. In this way it is a moving and different creation and that is a hell of a thing to consider for the future of the war videogame.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

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