- Related Games:
- This War of Mine
When This War of Mine released four years ago, it was a watershed moment for the games industry. While Spec Ops: The Line had already come out two years earlier with its own message about war, nothing prepared us for This War of Mine’s harrowing and relevant message. The games release slightly foreshadowed the refugee crisis, and was immediately surrounded by the tragedies coming out of Syria and its worsening civil war. Since then, the news cycles have mostly moved on, and our thoughts aren’t as frequently surrounding the civilians trapped in conflicts across the globe. But the latest DLC, The Last Broadcast, which released in November, once again makes This War of Mine disturbingly relevant by offering a powerful commentary on the war on journalism.
Loosely based on the Siege of Sarajevo, the original game portrayed the horror of war through the civilians caught in it. Players would have to manage their resources, time, and morale to survive in the war-torn city. The first expansion, The Little Ones, introduced children to the conflict, which added to the emotional stress. And even this had some upsetting real life equivalent, with the Calais Jungle springing up in France around the same time, which saw hundreds of unaccompanied children who had fled war trying to seek asylum in Britain.
However, The Last Broadcast doesn’t just deal with war and its victims anymore, but journalism and information. This story is more scripted than the base game, with players controlling a couple who attempt to run a small radio outfit within the ravaged city. Desperate to help the besieged residents, as well as survive themselves, the duo must learn as much as they can before broadcasting it out to the residents.
“Words Can Bring Hope and Current News Can Save Lives.”
An early mission to the park has the player discover an active sniper nest attacking anyone they can spot. This broadcast saves lives, and keeps the civilians out of danger, which in its essence, is the noblest form of journalism. Journalism is known as the Fourth Estate of politics. Its job is to keep those in power accountable and those not in in power informed. But at the minute, it is under attack.
In This War of Mine, your broadcasts have consequences. The army isn’t happy that the sniper nest was comprised and warns you away from disrupting their missions in the future. The more information you reveal, the more threats you receive, and your pair of journalists might find themselves the target of an attack themselves if they continue to hold the army to account.
And journalists are currently being targeted for revealing information that powerful people want to keep hidden. In the U.K., investigative journalist Carole Cadwalladr is fighting to expose potential illegality in the Brexit campaign, while powerful figures attempt attack and undermine her reputation and work. In America, the President of the United States, in addition to constantly calling the press “the enemy of the people,” verbally assaulted CNN’s White House correspondent Jim Acosta for asking questions and then revoked his White House press credentials (but later reinstated them). In the Middle East, Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by Saudi Arabia for publicly criticizing the regime.
“He Puts the Well-Being of Others Above His Own.”
From harassment to being labelled an enemy of the people to being brutally killed, The Last Broadcast’s inspiration is clear. From the fear and intimidation that journalists are facing everyday, to the threats and attempts to violently silence them, political journalists could very well feel like war is currently being waged on them. While the politics in This War of Mine are a bit simpler, the duo you play as have to weigh their personal safety against the people they are trying to help. They might not be delving into the complex financial histories or holding politicians accountable for the atmosphere they’ve created, but they are all doing the same work.
We are meant to empathize with these embattled journalists, like we did with the civilians in the original game and the children in The Little Ones. The Last Broadcast also develops a paradoxical sense of powerlessness in the player. One of the pair you play as, the actual broadcaster, is wounded and incapable of leaving the building. He’s feels impotent in the face of the war and the world around him. It’s a common feeling in the current political climate, but this is much more literal. But at the same time, there is a sense of power in their actions. You can see how much the broadcasts help the civilians, and how much they can turn the tides of the city, even if they put the broadcasting pair into enemy crosshairs.
The Last Broadcast taps into that sense of hopelessness in the political climate today; that feeling that you are unable to do anything but watch the world unravel outside your window. But it also delivers some hope and can be a powerful reminder on how to combat that feeling. Staying informed and sharing that information can make a huge difference in checking those in power. And it’s respectable that a video game had the courage to show us that through its powerful mechanics.