Educational "Death Strip" Game Condemned by Historian

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Educational "Death Strip" Game Condemned by Historian

The Director of the Berlin Wall Memorial says a videogame based on the "death strip" that once separated East and West Berlin is "tasteless" and an "unsuitable" way to teach about a serious subject.

"Death strip" was the name given to the no-man's land of gravel, trenches, traps and guard towers that ran along the Berlin Wall, the infamous barrier that divided the German capital following the end of the Second World War. The death strip was the primary obstacle faced by Germans who wished to cross into the West; it was wide open, offering no cover and a clear field of fire for East German guards, and in its early days escapees who were wounded while attempting to cross were sometimes left to bleed to death as a warning to others.

It's a grim topic and, based on the promotional video, one that's treated with an appropriately serious tone in 1378 (km), a game created by Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design student Jens Stober. Named after the length of the border that split East and West Germany, the game is set in 1976 and allows people to play as either East German border guards or refugees fleeing to the West, with the choice to "shoot, arrest, run, give up, kill or be killed." Escapees who are caught face imprisonment, while guards earn honors for preventing their escape - but those who kill more than three times are "magically transported to the year 2000, where they face trial for their crimes."

"Through the personal identification as a fugitive of the republic or a border guard, and the intensive experience of the border areas, the interest of the young generation in the conflict of recent German history will be awakened," the university said in a statement.

But Axel Klausmeier, the director of the Berlin Wall Memorial, doesn't believe videogames are an appropriate tool for teaching history. He called 1378 (km) "tasteless" and described it as an insult to the families of those killed while trying to reach freedom. "The seriousness of what once went on at the border can't be portrayed in this way," he said.

Klausmeier's attitude is unfortunate and off-base, but not entirely surprising. There are a great many people for whom videogames remain an inherently trivial pursuit and to them, the idea of using "games" to present serious subject matter is utterly foreign. Six Days in Fallujah fell victim to essentially the same thinking. Videogames have come a long way, but they clearly still have a long way to go.

1378 (km) will be available as a free download beginning on October 3, German Unity Day.

Source: The Local.de, via GamePolitics

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So videogames based on serious events are unacceptable? But films are fine. Also books and music. That's tasteful. Videogames can't possibly be serious.

Grr...

I can see his point, but so much is in bad taste these days it doesn't really matter

T-Bone24:
So videogames based on serious events are unacceptable? But films are fine. Also books and music. That's tasteful. Videogames can't possibly be serious.

Grr...

That's because they're 'games.' Not things of education, oh no, they can never be that. I agree that some of this thinking is pretty stupid... why not use games to learn about historical events? That would get kids, or anyone, interested, and likely they'd be able to see it from a different prespective then just reading about it in books. I think it would be easier to connect emotionally to the situation by game then it is to read about it in a book.

Plus, I think it seems like an interesting concept for a game over. Cops and robbers sort of style in a way.

My father would love to have more media of how he went through hell being in a POW camp. Something really bloody, and gory, watching your friends die slowly in real time. Of course that wont happen, why? Because people will complain about it even though they don't understand :P

T-Bone24:
So videogames based on serious events are unacceptable? But films are fine. Also books and music. That's tasteful. Videogames can't possibly be serious.

Grr...

I'd explain my opinion on the matter in detail but I'm sure Extra Credits has done a better job of articulating the concept than I ever could.

(Also, am I the only one who sees a password on the video?)

I suppose I can see where he's coming from. But I'd agree that a game, when done properly, is as tasteful as any other medium.

I don't know if this game is 'tasteful', though. Something feels wrong about it

Kapol:

T-Bone24:
So videogames based on serious events are unacceptable? But films are fine. Also books and music. That's tasteful. Videogames can't possibly be serious.

Grr...

That's because they're 'games.' Not things of education, oh no, they can never be that. I agree that some of this thinking is pretty stupid... why not use games to learn about historical events? That would get kids, or anyone, interested, and likely they'd be able to see it from a different prespective then just reading about it in books. I think it would be easier to connect emotionally to the situation by game then it is to read about it in a book.

Plus, I think it seems like an interesting concept for a game over. Cops and robbers sort of style in a way.

Exactly, games are inherently more engaging than films or books can ever be when describing a real event. If it's well made, then it will draw the player in more and the player/student will need to pay attention to events, rather than, as I did countless times, falling asleep at another dull video about the Russian Revolution.

The historian does have a point. Is it really the best way to teach someone about horrific events in history to have them re-enact the events themselves? That's in pretty poor taste...

EDIT: There is a danger that the message is missed and the focus is on the killing, rather than the consequences. Especially since there's normally a detachment from killing in videogames.

Annoyingly the video won't play for me, so I'm not sure how well they handle it...

So basically making video games about subjects that still touch the emotions and hearts of Living people is unwritten taboo amongst the society? But in every other form of media it is not?..

Great Atheismo give me some atheismo damm sense to understand the mess!!!

carnkhan4:
The historian does have a point. Is it really the best way to teach someone about horrific events in history to have them re-enact the events themselves? That's in pretty poor taste...

The problem is, how is this different than:

1) A good movie depicting the events in question? People watch movies to be entertained or moved emotionally. Is it bad if they enjoy themselves while learning?

2) Reenacting entire battles from history? Is it wrong to put on a costume and fire pretend bullets at another man in a costume?

It should be allowed as a game, regardless of if its gruesome or not.

Video has been replaced, not sure why the Vimeo version suddenly has a password but YouTube saves the day!

One day games will be accepted as a valid medium for stuff like this.

But not until people who outright dismiss them go away.

Someone needs to show him a message board about, oh say, Saving Private Ryan where people talk about how awesome the opening scene is.

Because films are a valid medium for showing how TOTALLY RAD death and anguish are.

But not games.

This reminds me of JFK Reloaded. It allowed you to re-enact the assassination of JFK, and broke down every single shot in every way so you could see how close to the actual event you could be, in order to prove or disprove the commission report.

Was it educational? Hell yes. Was it also ridiculously fun to just cause mayhem? Also hell yes. Just like how some people watch Black Hawk Down and think how terrible it must have been, while others root on the good guys as they blow shit up.

Im not sure...I mean a game based around the wall and Brendenberg Gate...seems, a little off

Video requires password to view :/

As for games as a tool for teaching history, would want to see the game before passing specific judgement. But one might suggest that, while games are good for teaching maths & other things (see Zoombinis for maths teaching awesomeness in game form), teaching a subjective subject like history through the same medium is different. After all, they might say, are you learning anything while your mind is focused on the task at hand (usually gunning someone down)? & if the proper context is not provided what happens when you finish & reflect on what you've just done?

The same is true (& the point often made, just not reported on The Escapist because this is a games website) of documentaries & films. Movies are criticised for often presenting history in a highly distorted way for the sake of being able to create a simplistic linear narrative to base the film around. Documentaries are often too reliant on pointless reenactments or graphic images to hold the viewers attention, & sometimes seem to relish in the shock value they provide, to the point they distract the viewer from the reason they're supposedly being shown these images, & even desensitise due to overexposure (are people really that shocked any more when they see footage from inside the concentration camps for the umpteenth time in yet another WW2 documentary, despite what they're viewing being real human beings?).

Formica Archonis:

The problem is, how is this different than:

1) A good movie depicting the events in question? People watch movies to be entertained or moved emotionally. Is it bad if they enjoy themselves while learning?

2) Reenacting entire battles from history? Is it wrong to put on a costume and fire pretend bullets at another man in a costume?

1) As long as you keep in mind, that there's a difference between the two. Braveheart has been the bane of historians for years...

2) Personally I find re-enacters strange. It's basically cosplay. They can't seriously expect to re-enact a battle with a few people on either side pretending to fight. They do however usually have a rough grasp of equipment and such and will put on displays and explain to the public, so I guess there's no harm in it.

EDIT: I guess I'm not really saying the game would have no merit, just that if this was the only thing you were exposed to on this subject, you wouldn't have a very well rounded grasp of it. Other historic topics would be more suited to this format.

2nd EDIT: 1) Not every film treats a subject matter well. e.g. Uwe Boll's holocaust film looks distasteful.

Hmm.. is this Source Engine?

Yes, video games never do anything seriously... those emotions people say they feel?
That's all lies, obviously.

It's called 'serious games'. Learn it.

The guy should get over it, but I do agree there are lots of better and easier ways for people to learn history.

Kapol:
That's because they're 'games.' Not things of education, oh no, they can never be that. I agree that some of this thinking is pretty stupid... why not use games to learn about historical events? That would get kids, or anyone, interested, and likely they'd be able to see it from a different prespective then just reading about it in books. I think it would be easier to connect emotionally to the situation by game then it is to read about it in a book.

Plus, I think it seems like an interesting concept for a game over. Cops and robbers sort of style in a way.

guess I somehow might get probation or anything for this, but still

here's an Extra Credit's on VideoGames and Education which apparently wasnt posted here

Looks like source...

I think I can see why this guy is being a bit skeptical about games as a medium for teaching history. I don't put much faith that movies will do justice to what they portray, considering they are at least edited for time leaving out details that could be important. Games can do the same, omitting details in the venue of offering choice to the players, changing the possible outcomes.
But what really should be said here is that nobody should take a movie or a game as the entire message. Watch the movie. Play the game. And then research the topic further through books, interviews, and other media so you can know close to everything you can and make an educated and informed determination of what really occured and what we can learn from the decisions, the mistakes, and the aftermath of the event.

Jaredin:
Im not sure...I mean a game based around the wall and Brandenburg Gate...seems, a little off

Understandable considering the location, but to know more about what people went through to get where they are today is important. To pick and choose only the comfortable topics only makes us ignorant of the travesties and mistakes that were made, dooming us to repeat them. Something this historian seems a little too comfortable to do.

Andy Chalk:
Video has been replaced, not sure why the Vimeo version suddenly has a password but YouTube saves the day!

Thank you, Andy. Your diligence is always appreciated.

Six Days in Fallujah fell victim to essentially the same thinking. Videogames have come a long way, but they clearly still have a long way to go.

Something that makes me sad inside. How are us citizens supposed to understand what our troops go through even remotely if we can't have a chance to have a form of experience? I don't speak just for Americans, either, as other nations were and are present in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they also have had their battles where soldiers came home, scarred from their experiences and nobody at home able to really empathize with what they went through making the healing process all the more difficult. France had their own troubles with Vietnam, Russian soldiers coming home from Chechnya and Afghanistan(though this doesn't condone their being in those places), British chaps coming home from the Falklands to name some of the most recent. How many of them came home to find their citizenry ignorant of what they experienced because hardly anybody tried to tell the story to how they could understand. Instead they get glossed over propoganda which was hardly near the truth. Leaving people unable to understand why their sons came home shell-shocked, broken, and mentally unequipped to handle the peace of home.
One reason why I enjoy We Were Soldiers so much because, like Saving Private Ryan, it was unforgiving in the portrayal of what our, being the US, soldiers went through. But also in Soldiers you get a sense of what it was like for the other side, and what the French went through when they were getting kicked out of Siam by the Vietnamese.
War is hell, and though there were no official hostilities during the Cold War, the Berlin Wall was just as much a weapon of the East Germans as any mortar or artillery was. I for one appreciate the effort made on this, and I truly hope it does its due diligence to portraying the story of what went on.

The obvious solution is to choose to be a guard, then escape.

theriddlen:
Hmm.. is this Source Engine?

That was my first thought as well. Was it the font style on the health bar?

OT: No gameplay footage? I think that might be the problem. One of my mum's best mates got his car shot up when he tried to drive through... Driving a drop-top with the windscreen pulled off, he made it under the barrier at the checkpoint, but then drove past a mounted gun and got torn apart by that :/

I agree, books and shit are for this sort of stuff. Wouldn't make a game about the fucking haulocaust would you?

A fucking genocide meter? Achievements for it?

teh_Canape:

Kapol:
That's because they're 'games.' Not things of education, oh no, they can never be that. I agree that some of this thinking is pretty stupid... why not use games to learn about historical events? That would get kids, or anyone, interested, and likely they'd be able to see it from a different prespective then just reading about it in books. I think it would be easier to connect emotionally to the situation by game then it is to read about it in a book.

Plus, I think it seems like an interesting concept for a game over. Cops and robbers sort of style in a way.

guess I somehow might get probation or anything for this, but still

here's an Extra Credit's on VideoGames and Education which apparently wasnt posted here

You sir, win an internet and a cookie for that. I love Extra Credits and getting to see an episode that came before they hopped on the Escapist wagon is a win in my book. Heck even Yahtzee has a couple vids on Youtube not on the Escapist.
Of course now I am going to be bugged trying to place the end music to that episode. Sounds so familiar....

internetzealot1:
The obvious solution is to choose to be a guard, then escape.

Which would be historical fact. Many East German guards, once they reported for duty and to their position, looked both ways and bolted for the West. I hope that is an option in the game to reinforce its position as a historical reference.

samsonguy920:
You sir, win an internet and a cookie for that. I love Extra Credits and getting to see an episode that came before they hopped on the Escapist wagon is a win in my book. Heck even Yahtzee has a couple vids on Youtube not on the Escapist.
Of course now I am going to be bugged trying to place the end music to that episode. Sounds so familiar....

well, if you want to see it from the start, go for Games and Sex episode, I think that's his first one from when he was just Daniel

btw, thanks for the internet and the cookie bro, feels good man

and I think it says the song at the end of the video

someone grab that guy, strap him to a chair, put the game and explain "STEP BY STEP" what is going on

the guy clearly has not played it and will never do it.

I care what this man says like I care what the withered old crone who complained about Doctor Who's jaunt on the starship Titanic said.
Really though, does that... perpetual motion program really count as an evil "vidja gaem"?

PayJ567:
I agree, books and shit are for this sort of stuff. Wouldn't make a game about the fucking haulocaust would you?

A fucking genocide meter? Achievements for it?

It's an idea, and another option could be to be completely hyperbolic and emotional about it, thus undercutting the claim you have any actual respect for the subject matter.

I'm almost certain that what he means is that this game is too silly to be used for historical purposes, and therefore we should show what level-headed and educated people we are by egging his house.

Seriously, though, from just that trailer, what am I supposed to think, that this is well-done history? Look at it! It looks like the Half-life Garry's Mod, with weird physics and big, empty spaces with the same two or three trees appearing over and over. All the characters stand and walk awkwardly, humorously even. Go back and look at how that random pink sweatshirt woman flips at the end. Is that bleak history? No, it's America's Funniest Home Videos.

The dude's right! Stop hating on him!

And I'm sure all the people who lost their lives in the holocaust would have found it dishonorable to be portrayed in Schindler's List as well.

Why are video games seen as distasteful, when any other medium would be fine?

samsonguy920:
Something that makes me sad inside. How are us citizens supposed to understand what our troops go through even remotely if we can't have a chance to have a form of experience? I don't speak just for Americans, either, as other nations were and are present in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they also have had their battles where soldiers came home, scarred from their experiences and nobody at home able to really empathize with what they went through making the healing process all the more difficult. France had their own troubles with Vietnam, Russian soldiers coming home from Chechnya and Afghanistan(though this doesn't condone their being in those places), British chaps coming home from the Falklands to name some of the most recent. How many of them came home to find their citizenry ignorant of what they experienced because hardly anybody tried to tell the story to how they could understand. Instead they get glossed over propoganda which was hardly near the truth. Leaving people unable to understand why their sons came home shell-shocked, broken, and mentally unequipped to handle the peace of home.

I hope you're not implying that the Russians being in those places was bad but everyone else doing exactly the same thing is perfectly fine ... I don't think you are, but people have a habbit of doing that ...

It's not really a game, it's an interactive educational electronic medium,

There you go, happy now?

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