If you’ve got happy memories of long car journeys occupied playing Nintendo’s Game & Watch series while your parents worried about the damage being done to your eyes, then you’ll have a soft spot for Pippin Barr’s new War Game. It uses the two-tone, glitchy aesthetic that harks back to those portable electronic LCD games—wonderfully digitized over at Pica Pic—that people of a certain age will remember fondly.
Barr—who previously created an 8-bit version of Marina Abramovic’s The Artist Is Present—has kept the premise, and action, pretty simple. There’s a war and you’re in it all on your lonesome defending yourself against the attacking enemy army. And Barr’s attention to detail means that the jerky movement of the characters and the lo-fi sounds from those old LCD games are replicated. But, this being war, nothing is as simple as it first appears. And so every time you die you get sent for psychic evaluation, where you’re asked questions like “Tell me about your mother.” But no matter what you say, with a futile inevitability you end up back on the battlefield.
Barr explains that the game started out as a homage to the LCD games. But because it dealt with war, a “shadow twin of ‘seriousness’” reared its head, posing reflections on the personnel caught up in war that he hadn’t initially considered. At least not explicitly, as he explains:
In some ways every decision I made about the game was for a kind of detached aesthetic effect. And yet each decision had this kind of shadow twin of “seriousness” that I tried to avoid looking at. But not looking doesn’t mean it’s not there. So, for instance, calling it War Game appealed to me in its blunt genericness. But calling it War Game also makes it sound weirdly highfalutin and falsely weighty—the final word on games about war, say. Likewise, the idea of have psych evaluations in a war game struck me as kind of amusing, a weird and jarring counter-point to the action-y nature those games tend to have. Except that there’s a shadow twin of making some kind of commentary on soldiers’ mental states and the attitude of the military toward their mental health. And on and on.
[ via The Verge]