A blessing of the last few years has been the gradual shift to approaching political themes in video games. My Child Lebensborn underlines exactly how our interactive medium can broach important and normally tough-to-discuss topics, and it does it in a well-researched, respectful manner.
My Child Lebensborn, from Sarepta Studio, touches on an incredibly delicate subject which many don’t talk about when they discuss conflict — what happens afterwards?
We often talk about grand conflicts by the battles that dominated them, by the lives lost, by the families devastated. But rarely do people discuss the side effects of procedures, plans or incidents that result from the conflict — things like the result of Ghenghis Khan’s many concubines, the Harrying of The North or what happened in towns decimated by forced conscription in the larger, global conflicts. My Child Lebensborn specifically approaches the situation of WWII’s Nazi Lebensborn: children born as part of a program to breed ‘master race’ children through the coupling of soldiers and women deemed suitable.
The program created a group of children eugenically tailored to fit an ideal, completely unaware of their intended use. Innocent, as children are. My Child Lebensborn acknowledges that parenting is hard, and that parents have to make hard choices when they give advice or when they live on the poverty line. At the same time, it plays out with that extra twist of the child (separated from their parents) guaranteed to be bullied due to their genetic make-up — something, like most things children are bullied for, that the child cannot control nor even understand.
You care for your adoptive child, male or female, in an almost Tamagotchi fashion. They have bars for things like hunger, tiredness and more; necessities. However, alongside the ‘simple’ caring of a child — which is hard enough as it is — you also interact with them through conversation. The children at school, and indeed the teachers, are not kind to them, as they know what your adoptive child is and won’t look beyond that to see the child as a human. Over time, this becomes more difficult, although you can ease or complicate their relationship through your advice.
My Child Lebensborn presents the choices you make in a similar fashion to Telltale’s format; remarking that the child is hardened or made more forgiving by the decisions you’ve made as soon as you have made them. It’s hard, especially when a parent, to see simple, delicate words and advice taken to heart so sternly by children. Tell the child to fight back against the bullies, or tell the child to ignore them? Both options have equally serious echoes throughout the story.
Despite all the hardship the player character goes through, working overtime to afford special food and school materials, you are always reminded that you are not this child’s parents. As they grow, there are pitter-patters of history smattered in, especially so if you decide to educate the child on why they are being teased. Later, this culminates in a chance to head out and seek out their birth-mother.
My Child Lebensborn was never going to be an upbeat, singsong experience — mainly due to its aim to educate people about the history of the children who resulted from the project. It does it in a respectful and careful way, with parenting that is relatable to parents and systems that are easy to understand.