Ori Dev Wants to Make a "Schindler's List for Games"

"It's kind of embarrassing if you look at the video games industry and how they've handled World War II as a topic."

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Echoing comments from Heavy Rain developer David Cage in 2012, Ori and the Blind Forest developer Moon Studios CEO Thomas Mahler says war video games oftentimes miss the point, focusing on action above all else, instead of telling deeper, more human stories. But he'd like to change that with a new game.

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In an excellent, wide-ranging interview with GamesIndustry International, Mahler reveals that one idea he's currently prototyping is a project along the lines of "Schindler's List for games." He says the game would take the form of an "interactive documentary" about Slovakian Jew Rudolf Vrba, who fled the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz in 1944.

Mahler is calling this game "Project Memoir." And though he's not yet talking specifics about its gameplay, Mahler stresses that it won't be another World War II shooter where all you do is blast zombies.

"It's kind of embarrassing if you look at the video games industry and how they've handled World War II as a topic," he said. "If you really want to see how far behind games are in terms of storytelling, you just have to look at that. There are so many World War II games coming out, and every single one misses the boat on the really interesting things you can tell here, super-fascinating things in terms of human psychology, the history of mankind, and so on. And every single game was just about, well, shoot some Nazis. It's just stupid."

Mahler goes on to say that he's thinking about self-funding Project Memoir instead of pitching it to a established publisher. The game would be a hard sell if he were to take that route, Mahler said.

"I would have a very hard time going to a corporation like Microsoft, Activision, or EA and saying, 'Hey do you want to finance my game that is extremely controversial and is a story-based game, an interactive documentary thing that hasn't been done before and there's no way of knowing if this will be successful or not. Do you want to finance it?' That's something I'd like to see. There's no way right now in this industry to make something like a Schindler's List for games," he explained.

Mahler said he's already invested "quite a lot of money" into Project Memoir, but he's still not sure if he'll ever release it; he hopes he can someday. "I also already see that if we did this full-time and really put our voice behind this, it could be an incredible thing for the entire industry," he said.

The full GamesIndustry International interview with Mahler is a great read, touching on other subjects like the response to Ori and the Blind Forest, Moon Studios' unique distributed development makeup, why he thinks AAA publishers should invest in indie games, and lots more. Head here to read the full story.

One recent war game that approaches the subject in something of a different light was This War of Mine, which highlighted how war affects civilians. Another example is Spec Ops: The Line, which emphasized the murky morality of war, reviewer Chris Watters said in his review from 2012.

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