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War Games: Real Conflicts is a UK exhibition exploring "what video games tell us about conflict"

Museum visitors stare at a screenshot that shows a video game soldier bleeding in the crosshairs of a sniper scope.
Imperial War Museum / Kathleen Arundell

Imperial War Museum Londons new exhibition wants to challenge “perceptions of how video games interpret stories about war and conflict”.

Entitled War Games: Real Conflicts | Virtual Worlds | Extreme Entertainment, the exhibition is running from now until May 2023 and seeks to “delve into one of today’s most popular storytelling mediums and ask how the reality of war is represented in the virtual world of a video game”.

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“Featuring 12 diverse case studies, War Games invites visitors to interrogate the tension that exists between the thrill and tragedy of warfare in a game and its repercussions in the real world,” a press release says.

“Common gameplay tropes such as explosive barrels and sniper rifles feature next to collection items like facial prosthetics developed in the First World War. The exhibition also explores how video game technology can be used, and is used, to help shape real wars, presenting brand new acquisitions including an Xbox 360 controller once used to operate the camera of an unmanned aerial vehicle in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

There will be “immersive installations, never-before-displayed objects and perspectives from industry experts” as well as the chance to see games like Sniper Elite 5, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, This War of Mine, and Bury Me, My Love, and explore how different developers have portrayed conflict.

On Saturday 26 November 2022, IWM will also present War Games Live, a “half day festival exploring the phenomenon of war video games” led by Brenda and John Romero and Jordan Erica Webber. You can expect live performances, talks, and after-hours access to the exhibition, too.

Sponsored by Rebellion, the festival also includes a retro game zone and a Games Jam in association with the Historical Games Network and the University of Glasgows Games and Gaming Lab.

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