The strength of visual storytelling is dominated by cinema, and rightly so, because it consistently pumps out mind blowing narratives. But there has always been an unspoken hero within the visual narrative media forms. Video Games. I remember the first time a video game really had a narrative impact on me. I was playing the horror game Bioshock, when the ending hit me like a ton of bricks.
SPOILER START: When I finally realized that I was being manipulated by three simple words, “would you kindly,” which made me feel like I was doing someone a favor, like I was free. In reality I was trapped and manipulated the entire time. SPOLIER END.
More and more, video games are exploring narrative elements in their construction, and valuing them higher than limit pushing graphics and hardcore realness. Games like Inside, and hauntingly with This Little War of Mine.
The game is very polished in terms of gameplay, has a very appealing art style that compliments the game well, but I’ve only ever put 3 hours into it. Just like Jason Sheehan from NPR, I found myself haunted by my choices in the game. In most games you kill someone, or make a decision and they will come back to haunt you with a broken alliance, but never do you feel like you’ve damaged more than just a coded bot in the game.
In This Little War of Mine, the developers have achieved something disturbed and truly haunting. You do the killing sure, but really you just command it. The characters in the game do the killing, and unlike you they live in this dilapidated hellscape. So they express depression and suicidal thoughts when they kill someone, and wish they could read a book to pass the time, and get thirsty and hungry.
The ability to narrate emotional well being of a character was new to me in a video game, because where I can check out at any time, the characters cannot. By making me have to actually be concerned and invested with their well being, and removing me from being some godlike unbreakable character as I would be in a game like Bioshock, I feel personally responsible for these characters well beings.
I don’t know if I will ever play this game again. Simply because I’m scared to face the characters who’s lives I feel like I’ve damaged by my own decision making.