Video Game Teaches How the Nazis Tortured Children
No Game About Nazis for Nintendo
By SRIDHAR PAPPUNYT
NYT, March 10, 2008
The Nintendo DS video game console has made itself indispensable to the playground set by serving up a steady menu of Super Mario games, plus the occasional SpongeBob SquarePants or Hannah Montana title.
Last month, when a 21-year-old British video game developer named Luc Bernard posted a description on his blog of a Holocaust-themed game he is writing that describes how the Nazis tortured children, the reaction was swift and visceral.
“Disgusting concept. Some people have no shame,” wrote one video game blog reader. Another called it “pretty creepy.”
The game, called Imagination Is the Only Escape, apparently will not be distributed within the United States. It casts players in the role of a young boy in eastern France during the German occupation who seeks escape from real-life horror through a fantasy world.
Darkly illustrated and full of gruesome historical facts, it is a far cry from the normal fare written for the Nintendo DS, which tends toward games featuring cute ponies and the like (DS stands for double screen).
So don’t expect the Holocaust game to be popping up on the shelves of Toys “R” Us anytime soon. “At this time, there are no plans for this game to be released for any Nintendo platforms in North America,” the company said in a statement.
The game is being produced by Alten8, a small, private British game company that is licensed to develop games for Nintendo U.K. The company is in the process of putting out another title by Mr. Bernard for Nintendo called Eternity’s Child that deals with a fantasy world destroyed by global warming.
The chief executive of Alten8, Paul Andrews, said he hoped to have Mr. Bernard’s new game ready for distribution in Europe by the end of the year.
Mr. Bernard said that his Holocaust game was meant to be educational. “I hope that young children will play it,” he wrote in a blog comment to his detractors. In another blog entry, he complained that Alten8 asked him to remove the swastikas from the game, though, he said, the company has since changed its mind.
In a telephone interview from France, where he lives, Mr. Bernard said, “There will be no on-screen violence in this product. I don’t see war as a game. I don’t find that amusing.” He said that his mother was Jewish and his maternal grandmother looked after orphaned Jewish children after World War II.
Myrna Shinbaum, spokeswoman for the Anti-Defamation League, said that she had not seen Mr. Bernard’s game and could not assess whether it was tasteful. “We certainly believe that we have to find new ways of teaching lessons of the Holocaust as new technologies are being developed,” she said.