In late 2020, we hosted an academic discussion about the Holocaust and computer games called Playing the Holocaust – Part I. As a follow-up to that event, in early 2021, we brought together a variety of speakers working on the creation of such projects.
Below you can watch the speaker’s presentations from this event and find out more about how games designers, their collaborators, and museums have approached making games about this sensitive history.
Our first speaker was Jörg Friedrich a game designer from Berlin and co-founder
of Paintbucket Games, an independent game studio that made the historical resistance sim Through the Darkest of Times. Before he founded his own studio, Jörg worked for 15 years in creatively influential roles on big production games like Spec Ops:The Line, Dead Island or Drakensang. Jörg is also a freelance lecturer of game and narrative design at a number of schools and universities.
Next up, Noemie Lopian and games designer Dan Hett spoke about their work translating her father’s experiences into a computer game.
Dr Noemie Lopian is the daughter of Holocaust survivors Dr Ernst Israel Bornstein and Renee Bornstein. In the last few years, she has dedicated her time to educating and commemorating the Holocaust, continuing the legacy of her parents. She has spent three years translating her father Ernst’s memoirs into a book The Long Night (The Toby Press: 2016). The Long Night has been featured on BBC radio and television and ITV News, in addition to articles and reviews in The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The Express, The Jewish News and The Jewish Chronicle. Noemie will be joined by Dan Hett, who is working with her to realise a game about her father’s experiences. Dan is an award-winning digital artist and writer, and creative director of PASSENGER – a games studio focused on unflinching interactive fiction.
Then, Brian McDonald and Dr Angela Shaprio discussed their Game Jams projects, working with young people to help them pitch and develop games about survivor narratives and other serious topics.
Brain McDonald is Head of Games at Falmouth University. Brian’s research interest are in the area of Game Jams, he is also interested in using Game Jams as a vehicle to explore more serious topics such as education, health and wellbeing and the Holocaust.
Dr Angela Shapiro is an Honorary Fellow at Glasgow Caledonian University and a member of Gathering the Voices (www.gatheringthevoices.com). The Project has interviewed over 40 refugees from the Holocaust who came to live in Scotland. Students and staff have developed 2 Serious Computer Games: The Arrival and Marion’s Journey. The games are based on the experiences of interviewees. Her PhD focused on engaging adult learners with independent learning and critical thinking to enhance citizenship.
Next, we heard from Yaron Tzur about escape room environments at The Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum.
Yaron Tzur is the pedagogic director at “Beit Lohamei Haghetaot” – The Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum located in the western Galil, Israel. The museum seeks to tell the story of the Holocaust, focusing on the Jewish and universal human spirit in its many shades, and the possibility to choose – even in difficult situations. During the passing year, our museum has been in the process of developing new ways of interacting with our visitors – both online and physically at the museum. Based on our educational principle of active based learning, we have developed an escape room environment, focused on bravery of Jews in the former soviet union during WW2.
Finally, games designer Luc Bernard spoke about the difficulties he previously faced trying to launch a computer game about the Holocaust, as well as the project he is now trying to develop.
Luc Bernard is based in California and is Director and Co-Founder of the independent games design company Arcade Distillery. The company has specialised in adventure RPG and strategy games, but moved into social awareness gaming with Kitten Squad for PETA. Luc’s Imagination is the Only Escape attracted international academic and press attention when it featured on crowdfunding site indiegogo as it was the first fictional computer game proposed about the Holocaust. Luc has recently been focusing on his mission to raise the visibility of the Holocaust in the gaming world with a related project The Light in the Darkness, working with an advisory board.