A developer made a game about her grandparents' 70-year marriage using actual documentary techniques. It's a game you'll probably never play -- but here's why it's important, anyway.
Dream Day: True Love is one of those games I wouldn't normally write about. It's from a casual games label (I-play) targeting an audience I don't belong to (older women) with a series of games featuring content I'm only vaguely interested in (the Dream Day series is almost all about wedding planning). But when the press release mention that series creator Cara Ely actually built a game around the real life story of her grandparent's World War II-spawned relationship, I called for an interview.
There's something inherently trivializing about video games. Sure, you could make a video game that accurately represents a real life event, or dramatically envisions a fictional one. But the things that make video games what they are -- interactive, fun, visual -- sometimes result in a less-than-Schindler's-List-scale reaction from the audience.
Just look at now-canceled "documentary" game Six Days in Fallujah; that game's attempt to cover actual subject matter made a lot of people angry because critics didn't think a game could do it well (or tastefully). Similarly, the flash game One Chance depicts a very depressing situation in which the world is going to end and everyone around the main character is dying or killing themselves. But the game is done in an 8-bit art style, so when you find something gruesome like your character's dead wife in the bathtub it's more funny than sad.
Bottom line: I don't think games are at the point yet where they can take something real and envision it in a way that's true to the subject matter. I do think, though, that Ely's game is a step in the right direction because of the way she approached the design.
I asked her if she worried that making her grandparents' love story into a point-and-click game somehow cheapened it -- or at least lost a lot of depth in the translation to video game. She answered:
I don't know what "meeting somewhere in the middle" would look like for Six Days in Fallujah or One Chance or any game where there's not a lighter side built into the subject matter. But the responsibility Ely felt for her subject and the work she put in to gather the materials -- her grandparents saved a lot of their World War II love letters and weddings photos that she used as reference points or actual in-game objects -- to get the game as close to true as possible is admirable. The game may not be something I as a gamer want to play, but the attitude is something I as a gamer want to see from any developer who wants to tackle reality.
The rest of my interview with Cara Ely continues on the next page. You can find Dream Day: True Love and all of Ely's other games here.
This article originally appeared on GamePro.com as True Love vs Six Days