This War of Mine: Life, Agony, Catastrophy

A life’s flash, like pinecones on coal.

Ash and dust across the sky.

This War of Mine developed by 11 Bit Studios is a story of people that takes heavy inspiration from the Bosnian war and accounts of World War 2. 

When I met the ending credits I felt aloft. I had lost a person early on but the remaining three persisted to the end. They were miserable, cold, and in pain at times, but they found themselves in a fortified and well-guarded enclosure with enough food and water for the remaining days. Despite this accomplishment, I felt insignificant. I think that’s when reality set in. No emotional triumphant, no exalted revelation. Just the too familiar mundanity of existing. For sure it was immensely better than seeing my team torture themselves as they stripped houses and people of valuables but still, it felt too normal. Lounging around all day, tuning the radio, strumming a guitar, cycling the rainwater filters. It was shockingly ordinary.

Smokey Sunset Vancouver 2021, Rod Raglin

Here in Western Canada, we’ve had months of heatwaves and droughts fulminating into wildfires and incapacitating smoke that turned our days into a blood-red fog. And of course, The Pandemic has been here the entire time. I felt in this moment the same feeling I had over the three characters sitting in their fortified ruins; confusion as to what I am to do now when there’s nothing left to do. Saving these characters doesn’t stop the war and anything I can do can’t stop any of the disasters. My task is to simply persist in this alpenglow until the end, to carry on and endure normality and danger as if they are the same. The goal isn’t the win, it’s to survive and see the next morning.

Obviously, a summer of living safely but adjacent to a natural disaster and pandemic with vaccines isn’t anywhere close to what the survivors of war and plagues have gone through but it still comes with its own widespread collective injury that This War of Mine taps into.

The beginning of my playthrough was full of desperation and conflict as the war first broke out. Everyone was getting injured from looters at night and the house had barely any facilities. The first week our cook limped his way through the kitchen while the scavengers slept off 24-hour shifts of just scavenging and keeping the house safe.

Hunger, illness, and injuries starting piling onto everyone as days of unrest have everyone in shock. With the supplies I gathered, I made two beds and upgraded the kitchen. The weeks turned into slow rationing of what food and medical supplies we came across while both our sharpshooter and scavenger slept off the night shift along with the scrapes and infections that decorated their bodies.

Towards the end of the war, the shelter resembled something of a home with security systems, a rainwater and alcohol laboratory, and a week’s worth of food. These days were uneventful as the war waned there was no reason to loot or invade anyone for resources, our only injuries were from the infighting between the housemates. They slept away their bruises while someone strummed a salvaged guitar and everyone just sat there and waited.

As they slept the days away it gave me a moment to think about what it took. I had been able to avoid most of the locations with struggling people. stole a few runs from violent bandits and condemned buildings. The only exception was the hospital admittingly I did take from behind locked doors a few materials, the actual medical supplies I left but still the deed was done. My characters were dismayed at the act but I brushed it aside. In the remaining days, I used the distillery to craft medical supplies and gave them to the hospital doctor for free as a means of compensation and to aid their effort. That’s what stuck with me.

When desperation and conflict grasped my characters it was so easy to rationalize what seemed like pettier misdeeds, Even while trying to avoid any claimed spots sometimes the options were limited. When a future of turmoil hangs over me, it makes the small slights seem inconsequential. It becomes too easy to let grand fears make me want an easy outlet and that’s not inherently a terrible thing in moderation. I often need to remind myself that if an occasion becomes a habit these small slights will cease being small. I have to pick my consequences and try to keep my head on until the storm breaks.

I think that’s the final emotion that I found in This War of Mine, that because it is able to turn a long drawn out national tragedy into something tangible so are my actions to it. It’s natural to feel trapped in unfamiliar circumstances but being able to play them out and imagine possible ends to them brings a calming air of clarity. I think it’s easy to be convinced into regrettable actions when people are so unprepared and the devs at 11 Bit Studios have managed to make a method from the madness of war.

Try your hand at the media mastery This War of Mine here

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