Brukel has been on our radar for a couple of years now, but the ambitious effort of Miami University professor Bob De Schutter to create a serious game based on the memories of his grandmother, is finally nearing completion.
According to De Schutter, who always knew he wanted to recreate the fascinating war stories of his now 93 year old grandmother Bie Verlinden, the goal of the first-person exploration game is twofold. On one hand her stories about living on the farmhouse Brukel before and during the second World War give players a unique insight on what daily life was like back then. They will have to examine and photograph various historical items, which prompt an authentic audio clip from Verlinden telling more about the object.
It’s all quite peaceful until the horror of battle shows up at their doorstep. As Brukel comes under siege, the tone of the story takes a dark turn. Told from the perspective of an innocent bystander, the game highlights the traumatic impact of war on a family of helpless civilians. That way, De Schutter wants the game to help players empathise with refugees of war.
Historical games aren’t exactly new, but using a person’s memories as the framework – gaminiscing, as De Schutter has coined it – is a largely unexplored path of game design. What’s interesting is the game is rooted in history, yet the stories might contain historical inaccuracies due to subjective recollection of the events. It all contributes to a unique level of authenticity and he aims to inspire others to experiment with similar ideas.
While some of the assets were created by his students at the Armstrong Institute of Interactive Media Studies at Miami University, De Schutter has been the sole creative driving force behind the project for several years. His work hasn’t gone unnoticed either. Brukel has been awarded a Gold Medal at 2019 Serious Play awards and came in second for Best Digital Game at Meaningful Play 2018. The game has been selected for the 2019 SAAM Arcade at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC and De Schutter has also been invited by the city of Geel to talk about the game to commemorate the 75 year anniversary of the battle in September.
In between promoting the game, he’s also putting the finishing touches on the experience. The final version should be out by the end of the year, but you can already add the game to your Steam wishlist or follow the development on Twitter. You can also follow Bob De Schutter for more on his research with Lifelong Games on how older adults play digital games.