The Holocaust-themed videogame “Imagination is the Only Escape,” a work by game developer Luc Bernard that was rejected by Nintendo several years ago, is meant to teach its users a lesson about life as a Jewish child during the second World War. It succeeds instead, however, in teaching us that there is a difference between bad intentions, and misguided ones. The game portrays a young, bug-eyed Jewish child, lost in the woods, following a fox he has befriended in order to escape the Nazis. The bright colors make it look like a bit like an expansion pack to Donkey Kong. The boy in the game, Samuel, sees his mother get killed after she sends him off to hide from Nazis.
Bernard, who according to the Jerusalem Post turned to Indiegogo in order to fund his game publicly and circumnavigate video game companies, believes his game will inspire players to learn more about the Holocaust.
One has to wonder whether Bernard has ever played a video game himself. If he had, he would know that games seldom inspire any sort of intellectual or historical pursuits, especially ones as grim as Holocaust research. In fact, if his intention is to target an audience that even in 2013 has still managed to avoid taking the Holocaust seriously enough to learn about it in earnest, the best way to spur this crowd into action probably isn’t to trivialize the subject matter by turning it a video game one can play on one’s smartphone on the way to work or in the bathroom.
Video games involving children can be expected to have any number of titles—things along the lines of “Escape from Hogwarts,” or “Escape from The Haunted Castle,” but probably not “Escape from Occupied France,” and certainly not the far more surreal title Bernard finally settled on, “Imagination is the Only Escape.”
Then again, Bernard’s aims may not be baseless—every time I play Tetris I end up researching the history of bricklayer’s unions.
Alexander Aciman is a writer living in New York. His work has appeared in, among other publications, The New York Times, Vox, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic.