Play the Past

A Gaming Focus

26.10.–6.11.2022 / HAU3, HAU4

With machina eX and The Mycological Twist

Games create a multitude of worlds. The HAU is bringing together three different game projects that connect the past to the present day. They create scenes where the players playfully learn something both about socio-historical developments as well as make decisions about the course of events on their own or in groups. Games thus become source of inspiration and media for discourse.

The experienced game developers from machina eX who have produced at the HAU for many years and the artist duo The Mycological Twist, who combine ecological and social practices with digital culture, will examine the artistic potential of games together with the audience in HAU3. In addition, the games expert Melanie Eilert recommends “Through the Darkest of Times” by the renowned Berlin-based indie studio Paintbucket for those at home, a historical strategy game about the resistance against National Socialism that she subjects to an accessibility test.

Image from "Through the Darkest of Times" by Paintbucket Games


    Melanie Eilert

    Recommendation: "Through the Darkest of Times" by Paintbucket Games

    When HAU Hebbel am Ufer asked me to recommend a game connected to German history that audiences could play at home, I immediately thought of “Through the Darkest of Times”.

    In this game, players organise a resistance group against the Nazi regime. This sounds like a heavy topic, but it’s playfully packaged as a strategy game using two mechanisms. Within the story texts, players can select various reactions and responses. For example, should they prioritise drawing attention to the Nazis’ actions, or should the group take more militant action right away?

    This determines the group’s motivation, and also how close it is to the players themselves. The actions are planned out on a map of Berlin. Which group members should take part in which actions? What equipment do they need? To make flyers, for example, you need paper and ink, but these need to be organised in a prior step. The players need to plan strategically, not only keeping in mind who should carry out a particular action, but how and in what order. Every decision puts the continued existence of the group at risk, and the well-being of each individual member at risk. 

    Besides the attractive look of the game, my choice was also influenced by its accessibility. Because “Through the Darkest of Times” can be played on computers, consoles and smartphones, its realisation is very flexible. This allows for it to be played by people with motor disabilities. There’s also no time limit and you don’t need to press several keys at once.

    The game has very little spoken text and comes with subtitles, so people with impaired hearing can easily follow what’s going on.

    There are greater restrictions for people with impaired sight, however. The graphics are almost exclusively in grey-brown tones accentuated with white, black and red. The predominance of grey occasionally blurs the contrasts. Lettering and symbols are sometimes very small and not easily identifiable.

    While I would have preferred clearer graphics, “Through the Darkest of Times” on the whole still combines an exciting gaming session with a powerful experience of history.

    © Photo: Anna Spindelndreier