An Indie GoGo fundraising campaign has launched for Luc Bernard's Imagination Is The Only Escape, a game about a young Jewish boy named Samuel who uses the power of his imagination to escape the horrors of the Holocaust after the Nazi occupation of eastern France during World War II. To say that the game's subject matter is dark is an understatement, but that's the point of the game, according to what Luc Bernard recently told The Verge.
"I felt that this was something video games could handle that no other medium could," he told The Verge. "In the sense that, when you're watching a film or reading a book, you're passive. Whereas with video games you get to spend hours with this child and control him, and you become more attached to the character. So when all the bad things happen, you're going to feel it a lot more than with passive entertainment."
The game combines gameplay that takes place in Samuel's imagination, coupled with the horrible things that happened to prisoners of war – particularly children – in concentration camps throughout Europe and other countries invaded and occupied by the Nazis during World War II. Bernard thinks that his game shows the other side of war that has been popularized by games like Battlefield and Call of Duty; he hopes that his game shows the toll on the people without the guns, tanks, and planes; the helpless caught in the middle and victimized for being different.
"In my mind it's just a bit disturbing, because you're making a subject like that a game and you're having fun with it," he tells The Verge. "While to me the events of war, that's not fun. That's something I wanted to show with this game — war is not fun."
When Bernard announced his plans to make the game for the DS in 2008 (the New York Times offers a short article on that ordeal here), he found that there was a fair bit of negativity, and a rumored blacklisting from Nintendo. It turned out that Nintendo never got the chance to blacklist the game because his publishing partner at the time never initiated talks with the platform holder.
So why is Bernard making the game now? Because the power of crowd funding is available, allowing him to avoid the awkward dance associated with "risk-averse publishers" who do not want to court such controversial and dark subject matters. Bernard and his studio hope to raise $125,000 to create the game for various platforms including PC, iOS, Android and Mac.
If games are truly art, and art sometimes imitates life, then it stands to reason that it is perfectly acceptable for a game to offer an unflinching look at the darkest side of Europe's history.