1916 is a game where you play as a German soldier during WWI in the trenches, and you’re only given your orders on a slip of paper: “Find the Ladder.” As you head out into the trenches, you face gas clouds, bombs and artillery shells trying to get to the ladder and go over the top. Fairly quickly, you realize you’re not alone in the trenches. What you’re facing isn’t on your side, it’s not even human.
This “first person avoider” survival-horror game is absolutely dripping with atmosphere. It’s one of the most tense games I’ve played in a while, and I’m still trying to come down from the suspense. Of course I’m a big baby when it comes to scary games, so take that with a grain of salt.
But it’s not just about being scary. This game is a game about war but, it’s not a “war game.” It’s the darkly frightening counterpoint to all the pro-war games we play in the form of Call of Duty or Battlefield. Yes, those games may have dark subject matter in their narrative from time to time, but the game is the important part to pay attention to. You win by killing enemies. Speaking from a gameplay perspective, this is propaganda about war.
1916 is the flip side; you only win by surviving. You can’t defeat the enemy. You can’t eliminate all opposition. All you can do is hope to survive just a little bit longer. In this it works beautifully. It’s a more complicated statement from a gameplay perspective, but a welcome change from the standard for the genre.
Talking Points: What is the gameplay saying about war? How does this contrast to the “darker” episodes of Call of Duty and their approach to war? 1916 contrasts conquering vs. winning by making it impossible to conquer, is this limited to the survival-horror genre? How could more traditional FPS games incorporate this approach?