Updated: Jan 24, 2021
What's going on everyone?
Back in June, I had the pleasure of attending the Games 4 Change conference in NYC. It's basically a conference for educators and game developers to get together and discuss how games and game based learning can help students across the world. During the conference I was able hear Vít Šisler, lead designer of Attentat 1942, talk about his game. After speaking with him, I knew I needed to play this game and make the necessary materials in order to get other teachers utilizing it in their classrooms. You can find the lesson plan here.
Attentat 1942 is a game about the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. I'll pull a quote directly from their website to give you a better understanding of it's premise.
“Attentat 1942 is a unique video game that tells the story of Nazi occupation from the perspective of those who experienced it firsthand. The game is built on dialogues with survivors, interactive comics, and authentic historical footage. You will speak to eyewitnesses, live their memories, and discover the untold story of your family. You discover that your grandfather was arrested by the Gestapo shortly after the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, ruler of the Nazi-occupied Czech Lands and leading architect of the Holocaust. You struggle to discover why your grandfather was arrested after the attack. What role did he play in the attack? Why didn’t he tell his family? Was he brave or reckless to endanger their lives by becoming a resistance fighter? You will experience a range of styles and dialogue-based gameplay features. The game includes interactive comics, rare digitized film footage, challenging mini-games, and cinematic-style interviews that have been researched and written by a team of professional historians.” - Attentat 1942
This game is an interesting one. It is a historical fiction game based on real events. It is also more of a visual novel than it is a traditional game. There is no action to be found here. Instead you click and read your way through the story. When speaking with any character, the player is provided with dialogue choices that affect the direction of each conversation. This is important because you want to make sure that you learn all the key information regarding your grandfather. The player can choose to work their way through conversations several times in order to learn all available details in the game. Doing so however, is not obligatory as the player can usually learn enough information with just one play-through of each conversation.
Unlike the various interviews in the game, which all involve real actors, a chunk of the game is told through comics. The game utilizes these comics whenever the game flashes back to Nazi Occupation of Czechoslovakia. The player interacts with mini games between these segments, giving them some agency in the direction of the story. While it would be nice for these mini games to have some real impact, they are usually passive in terms of determining how each story ends. That being said, they are fun little ways to keep the game engaging. It would be boring if the entire game was just dialogue choices with real people.
My favorite part of this game actually has very little to do with gameplay. Attentat 1942 can often feel more like an interactive textbook than a full fledged video gam. There is an entire encyclopedia with new vocabulary and events added as you play through the game. I found myself reading extensively about each new event that popped up during the game. As you can see in the images to the left, this often involves a lot of reading. This was perfectly fine for me since I don't mind reading, but there may be some challenges in getting your students to read all of the texts in the game. That being said, every section of this encyclopedia is very in depth and it is definitely worth it for the teacher to read through everything beforehand in order to have a greater understanding of all the content in the game.
Thankfully, there is a lot of reading that doesn't revolve around the encyclopedia. There are several sections of the game like your grandfather's notebook and previous belongings which the player can rummage through in order to learn more about his time during Nazi occupation. While these stories are fiction, they are all based in reality and help give the game a more authentic feel. The topics covered in this game are heavy, and at times difficult to connect with since many of us are very far removed from this atrocities, but the personal stories attached to these artifacts help the player connect more with the narrative.
I unfortunately won't have a chance to teach with Attentat 1942 this year since I am teaching Economics and Government, but I do hope some of you find some use out of these lesson materials. The game was clearly made with a lot of heart and with a clear intention of educating others. It's not a perfect game, it can drag at times, but I came out more well informed on Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia than I was beforehand. I recommend heading over to the game's website here to learn more.
Thanks for reading,