Anne Frank, the Computer Game: Can Games Handle Serious Subjects?

By Tara MacIsaac, Epoch Times
September 30, 2013 10:35 am Last Updated: September 30, 2013 10:36 am

German computer game designer Kira Resari has developed a prototype of a game that follows the life of Anne Frank, the real-life Jewish teen made famous by her diary describing the life of her family hidden away in an attic during the Holocaust. It isn’t the first time the gaming world has seen a debate about appropriate content for games and the ability of games to handle serious matters without making light of them. 

Developer Luc Bernard is seeking funding for his “Imagination is the Only Escape,” game through crowdfunding website Indiegogo after his deal to launch the game with Nintendo fell through. Bernard’s game follows a Jewish boy named Samuel through the Holocaust. Samuel uses his imagination and fantasy to cope with the horrors that surround him.

Both Bernard and Resari argue their games do not make light of the serious subject. Rather, they use a new medium to reach a new audience—they provide a way to live history and to relate to people who suffered during the Holocaust.

“Many think computer games are first and foremost entertaining,” Resari told Deutsche Welle. “But they can be more than that. They can facilitate empathy. … Movies and books also address difficult topics. Why should this be forbidden for computer games?”

When the Epoch Times featured Bernard’s game in an article earlier this month, it asked readers to comment on whether they think children should learn about the Holocaust through games. Of 117 respondents, 36 percent said “yes,” 36 percent said, “no,” and 28 percent were undecided. If this is any indication, it seems the public is rather evenly divided in opinion.

Author Julian Abbott voted “no,” and commented: “Children should play no game more horrifying than Monopoly.”

One anonymous respondent wrote: “If it’s to make money, it’s the most horrible kind of exploitation and if it’s to raise awareness it’s misguided in the extreme.”

Bernard told the Verge that Germans and Jews had given him positive feedback on his game. He said: “If I managed to convince a Holocaust survivor and he’s for it, I don’t care about the average Bob on the street.”

Resari describes “Anne Frank” as an “interactive experience” rather than a game, he told Deutsche Welle. The graphics and other elements are bleak and dismal. 

“It’s not really about having fun,” Resari said. “Instead of action I want to create emotions. What does it feel like to live in 50 square meters with seven people and a cat? The game places special emphasis on social relations.”

Bernard’s game does feature some lighter graphics as the protagonist enters a sort of fantasy world where, for example, he makes a deal with a fox he believes can bring his mother back to life. 

Resari got the idea for his game while studying design at at the Macromedia College in Munich. One of his professors said digital games could portray any topic, and he hypothetically mentioned Anne Frank’s story. Resari met the challenge, developing the Anne Frank project as his bachelor thesis.