The War Video Game That We Need May Finally Be On Its Way

Video games about war are always about the people with guns or tanks or planes. They're about the people who put on a uniform and fight or the people who order them to do so. They can be interesting, but they're usually a whitewash. At last, someone is making a game about war's victims: regular people just like you.

The game is called This War of Mine, the first war game you may have ever heard of that focuses not on soldiers but on civilians. You play as people caught up in the crossfire, people who are just trying to survive.

It's not clear just how the game will play. The development team behind it, 11 Bit Studios, previously made a series of games called Anomaly that were fairly typical in their presentation of hokey video game war—in their case played from a bird's eye view and more about rolling tanks down streets in a strategically sensible fashion than about the suffering of mankind.


That said, real war is very much about civilians. It's about the people in Aleppo and Fallujah trying to stay alive. It's about regular folks simply wanting to take care of their families and not get killed.

We'll be finding out more about what This War Of Mine is next week, but for now, we can dream that what sounds like something special is going to be worth our time. From the game's official announcement press release:

In This War of Mine, the focus is shifted away from military operations portrayed in most games. Instead, it is a dark survival game where players control a group of civilians trying to stay alive in a besieged city. During the day snipers outside stop you from leaving your refuge, offering players time to craft, trade, upgrade their shelter, feed and cure their people. At night they must scavenge nearby areas in search for food, medicines, weapons and other useful items.

This War of Mine was inspired by real-life events and delivers a message. "This can happen in your city, in your country," Michal Drozdowski, lead designer, said. "While designing a new game, we came across an article that described how one man survived in a besieged city. We learned about his hardships and the horror of that experience. We decided to work around this idea and make something real, something that moves people and make them think for a second. It's about time that games, just like any other art form, start talking about important things."

In TWoM players have to make life-and-death decisions based on their conscience. Try to protect everybody from your shelter or sacrifice some of them in order to prevail; there are no good or bad decisions during war. There's only survival.

This War of Mine is slated for a 2014 release on mobile, Mac, PC, and Linux.

To contact the author of this post, write to or find him on Twitter @stephentotilo.

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As a veteran of Operation Phantom Fury, the 2004 assault on the city of Fallujah, I commend 11 Bit Studios for having the balls to develop something like this. Just the concept of this game is profound. It's a sad state of affairs when the idea that war affects real human lives is an innovative one. A brief history of my experiences: I joined the service shortly after 9/11 with the very spirited (and wrongheaded) idea that we needed to "do something". I joined as a Navy Corpsman (a medic) and was assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines out of Hawaii. We were tasked to join seven other battalions to conduct combat operations in the city of Fallujah, which at the time was literally the worst city on the face of the Earth. What followed was the bloodiest Marine Corps operation since Iwo Jima. My soul was crushed (along with my brain and some body parts) and I saw shit that will play in my head for the rest of my life. I lost some very close friends very violently. Just as importantly, though, I saw first hand the destruction brought down on the heads of innocent men, women, and children. I am now out, working close with the Wounded Warrior Project, in and out of substance abuse treatment, and waiting for PTSD therapy, which I was diagnosed with in 2007. I am currently on track to design games for a living. Video games are my life. Truth is also a pursuit of mine. What would I like to see more of in this medium? Things like this. I am excited (and saddened) to learn more about this title. The Anamoly games are a blast to play, so here's hoping 11 Bit has something special here. It kind of feels like Anamoly was working towards something bigger like this. Cheers.