You can learn a lot from serious games
IWithin the video game industry, the serious games segment is growing. According to the Association of the German Games Industry, this branch promises average growth of around one fifth in the coming years. Serious games are video games that have a learning objective, convey a special message or train a specific skill. The player decides the outcome of his work or the course of his story.
One game that received a lot of attention early in its development was Through the Darkest of Times by Berlin developer Paintbucket Games UG. The player takes on the role of the leader of a civilian resistance group in the Third Reich. You develop a strategy for winning supporters and raising money. They plan when to print leaflets and paint slogans on the walls of Berlin houses.
The narrative brings the story closer to the players: in the first chapter alone, one witnesses the Reichstag fire, the book burning and the Köpenick blood week. The experience is accompanied by headlines from the weekly newspaper and conversations between the group members. The player notices how the big events affect the protagonist and his group.
“Most games are losses”
According to the developers, the development of the game cost around 400,000 euros. Jörg Friedrich and Sebastian St. Schulz founded their company in order to be able to apply for funding from Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg. Medienboard contributed 70,000 euros. “In the beginning it wasn’t at all clear whether we would somehow earn money with it,” says Friedrich. “We were just lucky that we got an incredible amount of attention.” The publisher Handy Games became aware of them and took over the remaining costs.
The development time was two and a half years. The project brought in its costs. “That’s not usual at all,” says Friedrich. “Most games make losses, the market is just too crowded.” Around 80,000 copies were sold by the end of 2021. The game is available for around 15 euros at various points of sale. It has been translated into English, Spanish, French, Japanese, Russian and Chinese. The customers are around 25 years old.
The developers were allowed to show anti-constitutional symbols like the swastika in the game. This recognized the potential of video games to enlighten and show critical perspectives. But there was also criticism of this decision, for example from Annelie Buntenbach, which belonged to the board of the German trade union federation. She feared that NS symbols could be gradually established, that social networks and video platforms could also be flooded with swastikas and SS symbols.
Another project by the video game company is “The Darkest Files”; the game is slated for release next year. The player slips into the role of public prosecutor Esther Katz and investigates real Nazi crimes in post-war Germany, finds clues and brings the perpetrators to justice.