It seems this year that Christmas has come very, very early as TechRaptor was lucky enough to get in contact with 11 bit studios, the developers behind the ground breaking title This War of Mine, which among others picked up the audience award at the IGF as well as being nominated for The Game Awards and Games for Change Awards. We talked the games as art genre, their charity work as well as what they've been up to lately.
TechRaptor: Please tell us a little bit about yourselves and what you are working on at the moment.
Pawel: Hello, I'm Pawel Miechowski from 11 bit studios. I work here as a senior writer, responsible for working with designers on writing and working with our PR & marketing guy Karol on copywriting as well. At the moment, we're heavily involved in further development of the experience in This War of Mine. Tablet version for iOS and Android is in the works. Independently to that, we're working on a separate project, but it's too early to unveil any concrete details.
TR: Your hit title This War of Mine was based on the Siege of Sarajevo. What inspired you to deal with such a difficult subject?
Pawel: My brother Grzegorz Miechowski, who is the CEO at 11 bit studios, was reading stories and memoirs by various people who survived conflicts. He was struck by the fact that physical challenge is not the worst, it's the emotional toll people need to carry. At some meeting he said it's an idea for a game, but only if we consider this seriously, and create the experience with a proper respect, like, say, The Pianist film about Wladyslaw Szpilman trying to survive the hell of war (which happens to be about Warsaw, where we're from). And we instantly got it, everyone agreed this is incredibly inspiring and that a game doesn't need to be fun, it can treat very serious topic as we approach it in a proper way, and with engaging gameplay. And without any shallow moralization.
TR: This War of Mine is pretty unique in deciding to use civilians as protagonists rather than basing the game on the front line. Why did you make this decision?
Pawel: Games are growing up and we as gamers grew up too. There are more and more titles tackling reality from different - sometimes difficult - angles. Games can be fantastic entertainment tools but they also can tell a bit more thought-provoking stories. And This War of Mine is such a game, I believe. I mean, games as a part of culture can tackle war in serious way. Why not? All storytelling forms should be equal in what they are able to cover.
TR: This War of Mine is seen by many to exemplify the games as art genre. What do you see as the future of gaming art?
Pawel: Great to hear that. Well, I think games are broadening the spectrum. Some are like action movies, some are like comedy movies, but there will be more and more games trying to tell drama stories, or even tragedies. Serious games are not the opposite of entertainment games. Simply, games in general are covering more and more areas of storytelling. At least that's how I see it.
TR: You used an incredibly unique and innovative art style. How did you decide on this mix of art style, and how to you think it contributes to the title?
Przemek Marszal: From the first minutes when we started working on art direction for This War of Mine, we knew that it must correspond with our game theme. And we knew that doing it super realistic way was not the option. Our game is like a novel, and we wanted to have this novel feel in visual side too. There were 2 main sources that inspired us the most. One were music videos from the 80s and 90s. Experiments with hand drawn cells over movie footage etc. And after some research and development I think we succeeded in achieving this time-lapse pencil like sketch. Second area of inspiration was mostly connected with our work toward color and mood. And this time works of Banksy appealed to us the most. Banksy creates his works on gray walls, dirty areas and then he adds one washed color, takes some colors from background, mixes it with black & white and that’s it. His art pops from the background – you can’t miss it – it’s harsh, strong, sometimes simplified – but you still get all the message. We’ve tried to do the same in This War of Mine – create a contrasty message with some form of simplification and a bit of washed colors.
TR: You recently teamed up with street artists and the War Child charity in order to raise funds for children from war torn areas. How is the project going? Do you see yourself selling more charity DLC in the future?
Pawel: We ended the entire initiative on April 3rd and the outcome was fantastic. Thanks to good gamers all around the world the DLC raised enough money to provide help and support to more than 350 kids in Syria and neighboring countries where Syrian refugees live. So big thanks to everyone involved! Now, we're planning next actions. We're not done with War Child support, in fact this is just the beginning.
TR: This War of Mine helps people on so many levels. Not only through the charitable DLC but also by helping people understand and experience the effect of war on civilians. Do you see more games like this being developed in the future?
Pawel: I certainly think so. I already see games on the horizon, that try to explore storytelling areas that has been so far beyond games' spectrum. So what I mean is that there will be games not only about horrors of war, but games about compassion, diversity, philosophy (like the genius The Talos Principle game) and other topics. We're going into a golden era of games, I guess.
TechRaptor would like that thank 11 bit studios for taking the time to talk to us.
What do you think of This War of Mine and the games as art genre?