This War Of Mine
Publisher/developer 11 Bit Studios Format PC, iOS
A lot of games conceal a serious message about contemporary issues, but few make their point convincingly without compromising play in the process. 11 Bit Studios builds its harrowing theme into everything you do, implicating the player in every tragedy and every act of selflessness. Building your base is fun, but fail to build enough heaters by the time winter hits and your party will suffer terribly as a result. Exploring buildings in search of supplies is also enjoyable, but you’ll have to deal with the guilt if a later return reveals its occupants have died as a result of your kleptomania.
But for all its cleverly implemented mechanics, it is This War Of Mine’s subversion of a hoary gaming tradition that most enthralls: your decisions don’t fill or deplete a morality meter, and your actions aren’t judged ( outside of characters’ internal monologues). You just have to survive, and how you achieve that end is entirely up to you.