War Is Not Child's Play for Ars Thanea
War is hell. In a culture that romanticizes a certain amount of violence and the gallantry of a soldier, it's easy to forget that every front line is someone's backyard. Battles are fought through streets that are someone's address. Blown out buildings used to be apartments, grocery stores, schools, and before shots were fired there were the banal daily stops of citizens who likely have little to gain from the outcome. 11-Bit Studios and Deep Silver’s highly anticipated game, "This War of Mine: The Little Ones," explores these themes putting the game player into war not with a weapon and armor but controlling the children living under the flying bullets. Animation studio Ars Thanea helped them by cutting together and animating the trailer for the game.
The trailer follows a child as he powers through his morning breakfast and goes outside to play. He and his friend build a snowman until it gets knocked over by a closely rumbling tank. It is then that you notice the windows are broken and boarded up. The kids run through the house and pass an injured man sleeping in the shadows. Smoke rises from neighbor’s yards. Guns fire in the distance. The kids still find a way to play, and they act out war. But in this context it is almost against the war that wages around them. The stakes in their game are low, but around them the world is crumbling down.
“In war kids are still kids,” the trailer reminds us. In many ways this game has the potential to change the way we think about wartime and the victims, whether or not they’re not hit will bullets.
The low contrast, greyed out aesthetic that Ars Thanea employed for the trailer is an extension of the charcoal-stylized look of the game. The original concept came out of real life events in 1992 besieged Sarajevo, but Ars Thanea’s experience of being a Poland based studio primes them uniquely for understanding the cultural power of these themes. The game attempts to explore familiar topics in ways that are perspective shifting, and stylized aesthetics offer the distance to suspend reality and have the player give over to the events of the story. It is one thing to see images of explosions on the nightly news, it’s something else entirely to take on the mantle of a war’s child.
This War of Mine: The Little Ones is set to release on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One at the end of January, 2016.