At first glance, games about war might seem like they’re all the same. Combat as a game mechanic seems ubiquitous, and these games often tell the stories of soldiers at the front lines. Those stories are compelling, to be sure, but not all war games have to mean military combat.
War is a complex, frightening situation fraught with intrigue and conflict on many different levels. War games can explore those levels, telling deep and engaging stories that go beyond the front lines.
Exploring Different Angles of War in Valiant Hearts: The Great War
While games about war often represent the conflict from the side of one protagonist, there are multiple perspectives to be found on any battlefield. This is the focus of Valiant Hearts: The Great War, a game that explores World War I from four different viewpoints, including a Belgian nurse and three soldiers, one each from the French, German, and American armies. Each character presents a different view of the war, with some having joined up voluntarily while others are conscripted, creating a picture of war that is full of contradictions and conflicting ideas.
By taking this approach, Valiant Hearts: The Great War shows that while war might be comprised of big ideas and conflicts, there are smaller stories to be told as well. In mingling personal stories with the larger one, the game tells a tale of war that is human and touching, showing the consequences and effects on people with a nuanced and detailed perspective.
Feel the Cold War Fear in Alekhine’s Gun
Alekhine’s Gun is first and foremost a stealth action game dealing with espionage and global conspiracy, but underneath that is an intriguing story of war that spans the time from the last days of World War 2 to the JFK assassination. As Agent Alekhine, a KGB agent in the employ of the CIA, you’re a trained assassin and spy experienced in war, but the story being told is not just about combat. As you engage in espionage in an attempt to unearth a conspiracy taking root deep in the heart of America’s intelligence agency, you find that political alliances and past prejudices run deep.
Though Alekhine is working for the CIA, you can’t shake the suspicion that comes with being deep in the throes of the Cold War. You must avoid suspicion, knowing full well that you can’t entirely trust anybody—both because of the conspiracy and because you represent an enemy to them. Alekhine’s Gun deftly explores the loyalties and mistrust at work in any major conflict, showing that prejudices may run deeper than we expect.
Spec Ops: The Line Asks Tough Questions About War’s Aftermath
Spec Ops: The Line is proof that games that tell the stories of frontline soldiers don’t just exist to glorify war. On the surface, it’s what you’d expect from a war game—fast combat from a soldier’s perspective with a variety of weapons to choose from—but the game goes deeper than visceral thrill, exploring the mental consequences of war and how war is never as black and white as some history books portray.
Spec Ops: The Line questions the morality of war, asking the player to think differently about games that show war as a thrilling, heroic experience. Inspired by post-Vietnam films like Apocalypse Now and Platoon, there’s a deep exploration of heroism and the effects war has on a person’s mind, challenging ideas about what makes a hero and who takes the blame for the horrors of war.
Stay Alive as a Civilian in This War of Mine
Though all the stories above explore different aspects of war, they all still involve the perspectives of soldiers or former soldiers–people involved in combat who have taken a side in the conflict. This War of Mine does something different. Instead of playing a soldier, you control the lives of survivors in a war-torn city, scavenging for food and other supplies to stay alive until a ceasefire is called. Any combat that takes place is between civilians fighting over resources, showing the desperation people experience when trying to stay alive.
This unique perspective on war shows that soldiers are far from the only casualties. Stories of soldiers lost to war are moving and profound, but what This War of Mine does is show the way that people outside a conflict have no control over how it impacts them—it’s a hopeless situation where all you can do is try to stay alive despite the odds.
Games About War Explore More Than Just Combat
Though combat might be our most common way of interacting with games about war, there are more ways than one to tell war stories. These four games are unique, showing different sides of conflict in a variety of settings and styles. War is a powerful experience, and its narrative use opens up a world of possibilities. By telling these stories interactively, games let us experience different events and ideas firsthand, increasing our empathy and understanding of things we will hopefully never deal with in real life.
Alekhine’s Gun brings the suspicion of the Cold War to your PC or console, letting you engage in espionage and stealthy assassinations firsthand. Order your copy now!