Ian Bogost has an interesting analysis of a little ‘rhythm’ game called Hush, a USC Interactive Media student produced number that uses the 1994 Rwandan civil war as a backdrop. The point of the game is to keep your child calm by singing a lullaby — letters that drop slowly down the screen and must be pressed when they’re at their brightest on screen — lest the Hutu patrol finds you (the screen cuts to red, leaving little doubt of what happens if you fail). True vignettes are found rarely in gaming, but Bogost thinks that despite the flaws, Hush points to how vignettes could be incorporated successfully into games and gaming culture:
Hush offers a glimpse, as it were, of how vignette might be used successfully in games. As an exploration of the potential of the style, the game is a success. And as a vignette of a situation in mid-90s civil war-torn Rwanda, the game is compelling, if perhaps simplistic and overly mawkish.
The anxiety of literal death contradicts the core mechanic’s demand for calm, but in a surprising and satisfying way, like chili in chocolate. The increasingly harsh sound of a baby’s cry that comes with failure attenuates the player’s anxiety, further underscoring the tension at work in this grave scenario.
The game itself is very short, somewhat successful (Bogost wonders if the designers had ever rocked a child to sleep, since the actual game mechanic can be somewhat jerky and on the opposite end of the spectrum from the soothing activity of singing and rocking a child to sleep), but interesting — they are successful in conveying a sense of rising panic with the need to stay calm. The game is available for download in Windows and Mac formats.