One of the most commonly repeated or recited snippets from Theory of Fun for Game Design is the notion of dressing substantially changing a game experience, using the example of a Tetris clone reskinned to mimic a gas chamber.
Let’s picture a game wherein there is a gas chamber shaped like a well. You the player are dropping innocent Jews down into the gas chamber, and they come in all shapes and sizes. There are old ones and young ones, fat ones and tall ones. As they fall to the bottom, they grab onto each other and try to form human pyramids to get to the top of the well. Should they manage to get out, the game is over and you lose. But if you pack them in tightly enough, the ones on the bottom succumb to the gas and die.
I do not want to play this game. Do you? Yet it is Tetris. You could have well-proven, stellar game design mechanics applied towards a quite repugnant premise.
Today, I stumbled across this little gem of an article relating a similar story I had never heard. It’s in Italian (Google translation here), but the gist of it is that a Slovenian website called Mladina made an editorial game about Tito partisans and the pro-Nazi Slovene Home Guard, back in 2000.
Apparently this game caught the notice of the Italian parliament and was censored! You can play it here anyway.
And now, EastPak uses the same concept for an ad. 🙂