Mittwoch, 2. November 2016

#PlayingHistory - Austrian perspective

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The motivation and inspiration for this article comes from Eugen Pfister (@Trogambouille) at Twitter. Based on the following overview at Wikipedia: he got the impression that Austria is only an interesting setting as background for a game when it is a car racing game or the plot has something to do with Nazis.1

Among the games of this list at least „The Last Express“2 stands out whose fictional plot is set in the Orient Express during its last ride from Paris to Constantinople before the outbreak of World War I. On this ride the train certainly stops at some stations in Austria (and the game has nothing to do with car racing oder Nazis).

The Last Express: an idealised view of Vienna
However, the Wikipedia list motivates to give more thought to this topic.
First results of contemplating show that there are indeed some more games situated in Austria.

One example is „The Watchmaker“3, whose plot is set in an Austrian castle in front of Austrian mountains.

The Watchmaker: somewhere in Austria
The plot itself is a fictional one with no reference to Austria. This means that for the story told the location is of no importance at all.

A similar abstract and hidden reference has been mentioned in an earlier article.4 It is the game „Mafia“5 that uses the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien as model for the Art Museum in Lost Heaven. As there is no hint included in the game to recognise this connection, the Austrian reference remains extremely marginal.

However, there are games with a more thorough Austrian context to find.

As one example „The Lion's Song“6 can be named. Situated in Austria of the early 20th century a rather psychological story is told. The plot may not be necessarily connected to Austria, but is pretty well embedded in the location.

The Lion's Song: Melk Abbey in the background
Introducing the geographical background the game starts with a train ride from Melk to Vienna. More interesting though is the cultural context that is conveyed in this game. As the main character is a classical composer, famous contemporaries like Arnold Schönberg and Gustav Mahler are mentioned in the game. Quoting lines from the famous poem "Panther" by Rainer Maria Rilke additionally supports the atmosphere of location and time. The second episode of the game is planned to deal with the Viennese art scene of that epoch.
This game points out that the restriction to mere graphical backgrounds for creating a certain geographical context is neither necessary nor sufficient to obtain the intended context.

From the field of the so-called fanadventures7 the game „Sowjet Unterzögersdorf“,8 has to be mentioned. This game creates an alternate version of history as a plot and is situated in a village in the Austrian Weinviertel.

Another fanadventure is „Oh du lieber Augustin“,9 that is situated in Austria and aims for an accurate reconstruction of the origin of the famously known folk song. This game is an excellent example for games that have their priority on entertainment but do process and impart historical facts as well.

What can be a possible profit of an increased Austrian context in games?

Games like „The Last Express“ and „Oh du lieber Augustin“ illustrate the possibility to include historical facts in an entertaining way and hereby contribute to a more differentiated Austrian historical awareness beyond World War II.

Another positive effect is certainly the touristic component of games that are situated in real locations. The capability that after playing a car racing game someone would like to visit the real location of the racing cannot be neglected, but as the most suitable game for a positive touristic effect once again "Gabriel Knight 2 - The Beast Within"10 has to be mentioned. Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Neuschwanstein, Altötting are just a view locations the game deals with, thus a formidable way of advertising Bavaria it is. At least the games mentioned in this article point out that there seems currently no such game available for Austria.
(Even a game with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as main character11 takes place in Prague.)

The discussed games are a result of a first brief research and do not claim completeness (further suggestions are welcome anytime). Therefore it is for now more a personal opinion than a scientifically proven result that there is a potential to design entertaining games that create an Austrian image beyond the clichés of landscapes and Nazis.

7 „Fanadventure“ is commonly used to address free games of the adventure genre, but not generally accepted as a term.

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