Valiant Hearts. Serious Games
Not all digital games offer an escape from reality into another world. In some games, what the players experience helps to improve their understanding of the world they live in – be it other countries, cultures and people, or conflicts and history.
Whether it is a flight simulator for trainee pilots or maths puzzles for primary school pupils, serious games have always tried to inform and educate. Today, a new generation of games is emerging that could be described as an ingenious blend of learning and entertaining. The most important characteristic of these new games is that they establish a connection between the real and the fictional world. Ideally, the player should not realise that knowledge is being conveyed: the learning effect goes unnoticed, taking place via direct action, and the knowledge and experience gained can be applied directly to life in the real world.
In form 262, we present two examples of serious games, and you will find two more here, in form Dossiers.
In contrast to “Antariksha Sanchar“, this game, that hails from France and was first launched in 2014, looks at a specific historic event: “Valiant Hearts: The Great War” takes place during the First World War. The action follows four playable characters whose fictional lives coincide during the war. There is for example, Karl, a young German who goes to France as an agricultural worker and meets Marie, the daughter of the farmer, Emile. The pair marries and their son Victor is born before the war starts. However, like all Germans, Karl is soon expelled by the French authorities from the country and drafted into military service for the German Empire. His father-in-law Emile also receives a conscription order to fight for France.
Many historical facts are included in the game – it has even been commended by the French history commission, the Mission Centenaire 14–18 for its accuracy. And during the game, players discover more about objects that they find as game characters: When Emile discovers and appropriates a fountain pen in his train compartment, we learn that correspondence increased steeply during the First World War and, as a result, the need for fountain pens grew. But not only historical knowledge about the First World War is imparted and integrated into the game’s action but also its consequences: How do I save civilians from poisonous gas? How do I avoid the endless war graves filled with corpses?
The developers of Ubisoft Montpellier see “Valiant Hearts” as an anti-war game and as an “animated graphic novel adventure” that deals with the protagonists’ interwoven fates, and tells of friendship, love, sacrifice and tragedy in a world that has gone off the rails.