A VR Game Set in the World Trade Centre on 9/11

By Julian Benson on at

This year, on September 11th, 846 Studios released [08:46], a "VR experience" set in the North Tower of the World Trade Centre on the morning of September 11th, 2001.

The game lasts for about 10 minutes and it covers the events of the first plane hitting the North Tower at 8:46am and the South Tower impact at 9.03am.

The team released a short video that covers the first two minutes of the game. It shows something of how the game plays, but also what it's like when the first plane hits:

Earlier this year I wrote a piece about whether there was such a thing as "too soon" when it came to making games about real world events. Essentially, the creators need to be aware of the controversy and upset they may cause by setting a game amid a tragedy with real victims. In this instance, the team made [08:46] for a school project and they're giving it away for free, so that may reduce some of the flack they might otherwise receive.

Anthony Krafft, the game's creative director answered a few of my questions about the project via email:

Why did you make this game? It's clearly a controversial subject so what was it about the project that attracted you?
We've produced [08:46] as a tribute to the victims of our generation-shaping event. In the team, we are all in our twenties and 9/11, on a global scale, changed as much our social interactions as our geopolitical context.
[From an] artistic point of view, we wanted to work on the individual nature of historical events, and remind that 9/11 was for the victims first and foremost a workday like every other workday, and that the traditional visual representation in the collective consciousness of historical events (mostly, in the case of 9/11, through Breaking News) is an abstraction.
Do you think there are subjects that can't be turned into games, or if it can be considered too soon?
We think that the controversial nature of such events is much more a personal matter than an objective one. As creators, we have a responsibility to be true to such events, because misrepresentation would do a lot more harm than distaste. We have encountered such a variety of reactions to the experience that we can't draw a line ourselves to what can be and what should be done. The individual answers are nevertheless fascinating to us since the release of the project. Please note that, to us, 08:46 is not a game (in the traditional sense), and we don't define it as such.
How have you tried to treat the subject sensitively?
We worked with a lot of references, from an interview with a survivor to plans of the floors or journalistic works such as 102 Minutes, to be precise about the events and the human dynamics in the Towers. It was essential to us to be accurate, as we could never be obscene or sensationalist out of respect for the victims.
It is much more an empathic experiment to us than an horrific one, and we tried to portray accurately the emotional journey of the victims. It was pretty hard to dive into the victims calls or the videos of jumpers but it was needed to understand who they were and how they behaved.

You can watch a full walkthrough of the [08:46] thanks to YouTuber Pretty Neat VR:

I think it gets a little gratuitous towards the end but the game certainly captures something of the horror of what it must have been like to be inside one of the towers.

The team writes in the trailer's description that the game is based on "countless hours of research in order to try to properly recreate the atmosphere and dynamics within the top floors of the towers".

You can download [08:46] through the game's website.