People frequently look to games as an “escape,” but Luc Bernard’s upcoming title depicts a harsh reality. Imagination Is the Only Escape takes us to a time in the world’s history that so many of us forget about but one which never leaves the minds of others: the Holocaust.
“I call this more of an interactive story,” Bernard told GameZone. “The challenging part I would say is making sure everything is historically accurate and it represents the real atrocities that happened. I believe that I am doing it in a tasteful way; otherwise I would not be working on this title.”
Bernard, the British designer who created titles like the critically panned PC side-scroller Eternity’s Child and the much better-received strategy game Mecho Wars, has looked to Indiegogo to crowdfund Imagination for $125,000. He’s been working on it since 2008, when Nintendo turned it down, which is why he's now seeking the help of backers to bring it to PC, Mac, iOS, Android, and Ouya.
Imagination focuses on the “human element” of the Holocaust — the crimes and the victims who lived during Nazi’s occupation of Paris. That makes it an “educational adventure.” Players follow a Jewish boy named Samuel, who is forced to wear the yellow star of David until his mother and a Catholic priest help him to escape and masquerade as Christian orphan.
Like those of so many people during the Holocaust, Samuel’s is not a happy story: His mother is killed as he escapes. Later, he meets a fox named Renard who says that if Samuel helps her restore peace to the forest, she can bring his mother back to life.
This all happens through the eyes of a child. But is it an adult-only experience?
“In my mind, people must stop thinking ‘kid-friendly’ means just something like a Disney film,” said Bernard. “[Imagination is] going to be realistic, and I think it's for whoever wants to experience it; however, I do recommend children trying it and finishing the title. I don't think it's bad for a child to learn about the reality of the past. I learned about a lot of dark subjects when I was younger, and I turned out fine. I would say this is probably why I'm more open-minded and things touch me more.”
Imagination consists of colorful, bright “imaginary” scenes and darker, “realistic” ones, which Bernard plans to reveal more of next week.
“I really want people to be able to tell the difference between the two,” he said. “It all goes with the story … By having imaginary parts in the title, when reality hits, it will be a lot harder.”
That makes it a controversial game, and while that’s not new for PC, Apple has cracked down on these types of titles before — like Littleloud’s Sweatshop HD, which made people think about how they obtain their clothes, and Auroch Digital’s Endgame: Syria, which explores the costs of war and peace.
Bernard isn’t worried. “Now, if Call of Duty on the App Store is allowed with Nazi zombies but a title that shows the reality of the Holocaust gets banned — well, that's just like denying it. I honestly do not think Apple will ban this title. That's like banning a film or book about this genocide. I do not think Apple will ban this.”
He said, “But again, I ask people this: What is more offending? The new Wolfenstein title [has] robot Nazis and completely forgets about the reality of World War II and the massive genocide. Basically, it's really distasteful and disgusting. How do you think people who survived the Holocaust feel about titles like this? I wonder.
“And then a title like mine which shows what the Nazis did to millions of people.”