CHARLES GAMES
Edge|November 2021
The small Czech developer making videogame history
Adam Zamecnik

CHARLES GAMES

Founded 2020

Employees 5

Key staff Vít Šisler (lead designer), Lukáš Kolek (project lead), Eva Necasová (graphic designer and art director)

URL charlesgames.net

Selected softography Attentat 1942, Svoboda 1945: Liberation

Current projects The Legend Of The Spirit Bird, Train To Sachsenhausen

History is at the centre of everything Charles Games does. Its work has received acclaim for applying a historian’s eye to the Second World War, an era picked over by many games. But Charles Games prefers to avoid big action sequences in favour of recounting the firsthand accounts of ordinary people who experienced the horrors of Nazi occupation. Following the release of its debut, Attentat 1942, the studio also played a part in a momentous change in German law, one that saw Attentat become one of the very first games tackling such topics that was allowed to be released in the region without major changes.

Stepping back to the studio’s origins, though, the focus on history comes as no surprise. Initially formed as an educational venture between Charles University in Prague and historians from the Czech Academy Of Sciences with the aim of teaching history in Czech schools, it struck out on its own in 2020. “This will be the second year for Charles Games as an official game studio, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t worked together for a longer time,” project lead Lukáš Kolek explains.

In fact, the studio’s founding came almost three years after the release of Attentat 1942. Originally developed as part of a university project, that game built on the foundations of an earlier project, 2015’s Czechoslovakia 38-89: Assassination. That was designed as an educational simulation for high school students, but Kolek and his colleagues wanted to make something that could be played by the public.

The subject matter of both games, though, was the same: the Nazi occupation of what is now the Czech Republic, specifically the events surrounding the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, a high-ranking SS official and Reich-Protector of the occupied territory. Combining black-and-white comic-book art with FMV sequences, the adventure game told a much more human narrative than we’re used to seeing in most games set around the Second World War. Instead of focusing on the soldiers who ambushed Heydrich, which might have been the most obvious route, Attentat 1942 is rooted in the story of a grandchild in the early 2000s, slowly uncovering their grandparents’ experience of the occupation years.

In order to tell this story, accuracy was vital. Collecting firsthand accounts, diary entries and interviews, the development team worked with academics to capture the spirit of the time. “From the start, there were six historians within the team,” lead designer Vít Sisler explains. “Two from Charles University and four from the Institute Of Contemporary History of the Czech Academy Of Sciences.” While the academics initially offered historical counsel and background information to the game’s designers and scriptwriters, they quickly became much closer to the rest of the team. “We invited the academics to serve as the game designers themselves, writing the dialogue which we would later tailor to the game.”

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