You know what I would never have the courage to think about creating? A game set during the Holocaust. Good gravy, you've got to have some courage to go there. That's what Polish developers Juggler Games have just announced their intentions to do, with My Memory of Us [official site]. And, um, it has robots in it.
Ho boy. This could go wrong.
Right, so, it's not actually the WW2 Holocaust, but it is apparently entirely based on it, on real events that took place in the Jewish ghetto in Poland, but it's allegorical. We've got an evil King, robot soldiers, and the friendship between a boy and a girl that struggles to survive their suffering. At the same time, this is the developers' tribute to their ancestors who went through the real thing. The project's creative director, Jakub Jabłoński, explains,
"My Memory of Us is in fact a tribute to our loved ones. We wanted to tell their stories to the world, about their tough childhood experiences; about their nostalgia, their longing for real friendship, and about together opposing the great danger that is war. One day the Evil King simply changed all the rules. He segregated people – some were marked as better, others as worse. He created his own rules and harshly punished anyone who was brave enough to oppose him. Our protagonists don’t agree to this new way of things, to the terror of the tyrant and his army of robots. They decide to find their own paths in this gloomy, yet fascinating world."
This is the trailer that accompanies this:
Hmmm, I'm just not sure. Cutesy side-scrolling romance in a holocaust? Flying trains and whales, evil robots... Part of me thinks: Yes! Fairy tale is one of the most effective ways of communicating horror. Other parts of me think: No! If you're going to talk about it, talk about it.
Here's a slightly random aside. Many years ago I was on a press trip for Call Of Duty II. So probably around 2004. Activision took us to Poland, and it was all of extremely dubious taste. We're talking giant monitors and speakers set up to show the game inside Wolf's Lair. There were also people dressed up as Nazis. Good lord. Anyway, the next day we met some of the Poles who had been playing the Nazis, and it turns out they were members of a war re-enactment society who had become fed up of, and this is a quote, pretending trees were the Nazis. They decided if they were going to do it, they needed to do it with a degree of respect, and with an understanding of the severity of it all. One guy told me about his grandfather, a German who had been drafted into the Nazis and was brave enough to go AWOL, fleeing to Poland to fight against his own nation's forces.
He had his uniform, his original papers, note books, everything. It was chilling to touch them. He spoke about his grandfather with reverence, and he understood what those items had represented and what they'd done to his own ancestors. And I understood, kind of, how he could put on those clothes and play the baddies in those re-enactments.
So this - My Memory of Us - is a game made by Poles who want to speak about what happened to their grandparents and great-grandparents. And remembering that guy I met back then, in Poland, I realise that for me the Holocaust is a horrifying entry in history - my grandfather (a medic) fought against the Nazis and lived, but that's as close as it comes to meaningfully touching my life. So I bristle at the potential problems of this game from a distance, and maybe it's none of my business doing that.
Anyway, that wandered off track from posting a trailer. Sorry about that.