Author Topic: Theatre Europe (or how to explain nuclear war to kids)  (Read 185 times)

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Offline Loki

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So I've been playing Theatre Europe for probably the first time in over 30 years, and it brought back a lot of memories of playing this one as a kid. I think I'd have been about 9 or 10 when I played it, and in spite of not fully grasping the strategy aspect of it, or the overall concept or what NATO or the Warsaw Pact were, it left a big impression of me for one main reason, that being its depiction of chemical and nuclear conflict.

I mean as a strategy game (with optional action sequences), Theatre Europe was decent enough, and I remember playing (although never winning) a fair few games just with the basics. Eventually though, I noticed a part of the manual I'd missed, which had the nuclear authorisation code in there. I'd not been able to access that part of the game until then, but now, having the nuclear code, the game changed completely, on so many levels.

At that age I only paid a slight bit of attention to the news, but didn't really know much about the Cold War, or the full implications of that or the threat of global nuclear war. I'd heard of it, and had a vague idea, but I knew very little. Theatre Europe basically changed that, I wasn't expecting it to, at first I thought I'd just unlocked a whole new arsenal of weaponry to fire at the opposition, and yeah, a few tit for tat nuclear strikes took place. Soon though, the "Fire Plan: Warm Puppy" (or First Kiss) option looked tempting though, and it wasn't long before a full scale nuclear assault was launched. It was countered by the enemy's reflex systems, and soon the skies were filled with missiles and city after city enveloped in mushroom clouds. It was at that point my childhood self realised I'd wiped out the entire human race.

It was an eye opener for sure, weirdly, it was Theatre Europe that really made me realise the absolute horror of global conflict and particularly the doomsday scenario of nuclear warfare. As I say, I had an idea but I don't think any amount of news reports, documentaries or people explaining it would have drummed it into me like playing this game did. I also vividly remember trying to see if I "win" later on, or just see what happens if I launch a pre-emptive all out nuclear attack before the enemy can activate its reflex defences, and even if you do that, with the enemy defenceless, you still effectively lose with civilization ending in a nuclear winter. That really hammered it home, the idea that no matter what I did, I could not win at all this way, and that even if I struck first, nobody wins a nuclear war.

Kind of a long story I guess but I think at that age, not only was that a real eye opener but it was also rare to see a game where the blasting, the war and the killing also shows the consequences and aftermath of such things. It's stayed with me for that time anyway, and just thought I'd share that as well as see if any of you also played this game as kids and if it had a similar impact on you as well?

Offline ComSoft6128

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Re: Theatre Europe (or how to explain nuclear war to kids)
« Reply #1 on: 11:18, 19 July 19 »
Hi Loki,

Unfortunately I never played the game but these two (both were rebroadcast in July 85) had a similar emotional impact on me at the time:


Video here:


Video here:

As both are relentlessly grim and depressing , it might be an idea to watch them by yourself (not family viewing) or even not at all.
« Last Edit: 15:06, 19 July 19 by ComSoft6128 »