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War video game made by Norwich man, 25, reveals the real horror of war

PUBLISHED: 14:36 26 December 2018

A still from Henry Driver's Lost Letters From A Lost Generation  Picture: Henry Driver

A still from Henry Driver's Lost Letters From A Lost Generation Picture: Henry Driver

Henry Driver

Many war video games glory in violence – but the game created by 25-year-old Henry Driver is based on a relative’s real-life wartime tragedy

Henry Driver   Picture: Benjamin BeauchampHenry Driver Picture: Benjamin Beauchamp

Video games are often accused of glamorising violence.

But Lost Letters from a Lost Generation, created by 25-year-old Norwich artist Henry Driver, reveals the real-life horror of war.

The game uses the words of Henry’s great great uncle, a soldier killed more than a century ago, to guide players through a First World War battle.

It is based on a letter from Reginald to his mother, which was discovered in an attic by one of Henry’s cousins.

Unusually the vivid and tragic account of Reginald’s first battle escaped the censor.

“I found his letter an incredibly powerful and emotive account which opened my eyes to the realities

of World War One,” said Henry. “He was only slightly older then me when he wrote it, which made me feel very connected to his story. If I was born 100 years ago, it would have been me, fed through the horrors

of war. I felt incredibly lucky and thankful to have been spared this fate.”

The letter begins ‘My Dearest Mother’ and Henry said: “I believe it’s very rare for a letter to escape censorship. Reginald was being treated in a field hospital, when he managed to pass the letter to an injured friend who was being sent back to England.

“Reginald’s letter made me think of how historical conflict is engaged with by young men, the same men

who 100 years ago would have been sent off to war,” said Henry. “A huge number of young men play military video games. However, I found Reginald’s descriptions of war so at odds with the way that video games present and explore conflict,”

Henry’s game is part of the Armistice exhibition at Norwich Castle and challenges people’s expectations of war games. It communicates the terror of going into battle and the terrible aftermath of death and injury.

Guided by the young soldier’s words from just over a century ago, players share his experience of repeated charges and near-constant shelling during the Battle of Mount Sorrel, near Ypres, in Belgium in 2016.

“And then Hell itself opened up,” writes Reginald. In some regiments the casualty figure of men killed or injured reached almost 90%.

Henry, grew up in Bury St Edmunds, and studied fine art at the Norwich University of the Arts, where he began working with video technology as part of his degree. He has already exhibited work at the Tate and the Barbican and in galleries in Germany, Denmark, Australia, and Canada, with projects shortlisted for a national and international awards.

Henry calls Lost Letters From A Lost Generation an experimental video game and explained he had tried to make something that was not just a game but helped communicate and explore an important topic.

The game is also a personal tribute to Reginald, who was killed in action, aged 26, just three months after writing the letter.

“I’ve had some fantastic feedback from audiences saying they found the experience very powerful

and emotional,” he said.

Kate Raczynska, a trainee curator at Norwich Castle, said: “Including a video game in the exhibition allowed us to engage with teenagers, an age group too often overlooked in museum displays. This is not your regular point-and-shoot style video game. Guided by actual quotes from Reginald Hunt, a First World War soldier, the game provides an immersive visual and audio experience of what it would have been like to go ‘over the top’ for the first time.”

Once the Norwich Castle exhibition has ended Henry plans to make the game available digitally – and hopes to find funding to recreate the entire uncensored letter (the current game uses around half of it.)

“The dream is also to make a virtual reality version so audiences who aren’t familiar with games controllers can still become immersed in the experience,” said Henry.

Armistice; Legacy of the Great War in Norfolk is a major centenary exhibition exploring the impact of the First World War on Norfolk. It runs at Norwich Castle until January 6, 2019. www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk

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