How games are changing our understanding of war

A new exhibition at London’s Imperial War Museum explores the relationship between video games and violence, uncovering how game designers are offering new perspectives on the history of conflict

“I think there’s a clear tension between war being entertaining, and the reality of warfare,” says Chris Cooper, co-curator of a new exhibition delving into the ways game designers are tackling our fascination with conflict. Hosted at London’s Imperial War Museum (IWM), the exhibition – entitled War Games: Real Conflicts | Virtual Worlds | Extreme Entertainment – places footage from games, and interactive pieces, alongside real-life artefacts, in a show that leans into the friction between war as entertainment, and the moral grey area that produces.

It’s not the first time the museum has examined the relationship, having hosted Reel to Reel: A Century of War Movies back in 2016. Cooper explains that the concept for War Games was born from this show, which similarly explored “the impact movies had on the public’s perception of war and conflict, and how much impact that had on people’s understanding of war”. Video games, as “the next big interpretive media to be emerging in the entertainment sphere” felt like a natural next step.

Top image: Still from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare © 2019 Activision Publishing, Inc; Above: Still from This War of Mine, provided by 11 bit studios