Tuesday, September 28, 2010

German design Student - genius game developer or stupid tasteless?

A 23 years old student from my hometown Karlsruhe did develop within a few months a first person shooter game which has very good 3D graphics and a lot of small details like birds flying through the background. The scenes look like old film material from the 70es. Like somebody did find old 8mm films from an archive and is playing them on an old projector. Even the noises of scratches and dust are clear to see and hear.

It is almost not believable that one person can do this within just short time.
It is not as perfect as Halo or other commercial first person shooter games but the rendering is much better than 10 years ago.
The name of the game is „1378 (km)“.
But, 1378 (km) is not a usual first person shooter game. It plays in Europe 30 years in the past. To be exact in 1976 at the border of West and East Germany. The game got released 20 years after the fall of the wall. 1378km was the length of the fence which separated both Germanys. Nobody from East Germany could easily leave the country. The only way for the most part at this time was to find a way through or over the fence as a refugee.
The players of the game (it is a free download) can make the choice to play either the refugee or the border guard with a AK-47 half automatic.
A guard can change the side and join the refugees.
The game is extremely smart, a guard can be punished if not following his superior order but might be later in the game a hero. Or if a guard is stopping many refugees to leave the country he might get a military medal but has later to stand in the court after the wall went down to face the crimes.

Jens's Stover professor (from the HFG, Karlsruhe) is seeing this game as a "serious game" with a perfect execution and educational importance.

Other critics do believe that the game is tasteless and does not honor the victims of this hard time during 1964 and 1990. Thousand of innocent people got killed because they did want to rejoin their separated families or did just want to have freedom.

Sven is too young to know how it was before the wall went down. I grew up in a time when the wall and separation was there and even part of my family lived in East Germany. Whenever we did want to meet them, we had to go through difficult paperwork before we could go. At the border we had wait hours till they searched our whole car ( they even took the chairs out on the way home). My aunt and uncle could not visit us till 1985 and after this only once a year and only one person at the time, to make sure this person goes back to East Germany.

I can't say if this game is tasteless, because I saw more blood driven first person shooter games published by big companies here in the States. I saw games which are taking other realistic historic moments as a storyline like war in Afghanistan or the second world war.

But I think it is the first time in Germany, that a German does build an educational and serious game as first person shooter, which does not have the balance between good and evil, actually a misbalance which (first view) favors the evil (the border guard and East German military). However the game has twists.

I think it depends who is playing the game. People who like violence and who have a tendency to extremism love the game just to shoot people, to see how many they can kill.

On the other hand, players which want to understand how complex and crazy the time was (as a guard you have to follow your orders but if you do so, you have to kill, if you don't you get maybe killed, but 20 years later you spare the jail if you did not follow orders).

And then we have the third group which will see this game tasteless and something we don't need.

I personally don't like any first shooter games, i prefer adventures or sport games, but if it is a shooting game, it should have good logic.

I never played the game, everything i wrote is from German news, screen shots and videos i saw from the game.

Maybe living in America makes it hard to understand the controversy about the game. And it is hard to compare it with something else because the situation was so unique. Any example might be wrong. The closest I can think of would be a 9/11 game where the player has to choose to be a hero (firefighter) or a terror attack victim (worker in the building). And any second the hero has to decide to get more victims out of the building and risk his own life or to stop helping people but get moral depression.

If you think this topic is not something which should be played in a game, or if you think this would be a great serious education for our children who grew up after the attack, then you know and understand why the 1378km game is so discussed in Germany.

1378(km) - Teaser from Jens M. Stober on Vimeo.

- Posted using My iPad


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