Aviators is a free-to-play game created by the Polish Instytut Pamięci Narodowej (Institute of National Remembrance), the Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against the Polish People (note the second part of the name!). It is dedicated to the participation of Polish pilots and support personnel of the Air Force of the Polish Republic in World War II. And this is a good reason to talk about games as a tool for studying history and promoting a national view of certain historical events.

Game Aviators – War in the Skies
Genre adventure
Platforms Windows, VR
Languages English, Ukrainian
Developer Chronospace
Publisher Instytut Pamięci Narodowej

Polish Air Force during the Second World War

After Poland’s defeat in the two-front war against the German and Soviet invaders in 1939, most of the pilots of the Polish Air Force managed to evacuate through Hungary and Romania to France, where they continued to fight the Germans. After the defeat of France, the Poles relocated to the United Kingdom and joined the RAF. Polish pilots took part in the Battle of Britain, in the bombing of the Reich, and in secret missions to support the Home Army behind German lines.

145 Polish fighter pilots fought in the RAF. This is the largest number of pilots of any country, even among the countries that were part of the British Empire. By the end of the war, the Polish Air Force in the UK had about 19,400 soldiers. During the war, Polish pilots flew more than 100,000 missions and destroyed 769 Nazi aircraft.

All of these are well-known facts that are described in numerous memoirs, fiction and documentary books. There are even a couple of films on this topic – Hurricane (2018) and Dywizjon 303 (2018). However, the Instytut Pamięci Narodowej decided to allocate money for a game about Polish pilots.


Aviators – War in the Skies can be divided into three parts.

The first is a walking simulator in which you, in the role of Polish pilot Jadwiga Pilsudski (the youngest daughter of Marshal Józef Pilsudski, a national hero of Poland), who served in the RAF Auxiliary and ferried aircraft from factories after repairs, have to prepare a bomber for takeoff while learning its main systems.

The second is flight missions, in which you, as a bomber crew member, will fight off German fighters, put out a fire on board, send requests for help, and so on. This part is actually pseudo-historical, because at first you shoot down five Messers in two minutes, and then you use the Halifax as a kind of AC-130-like gunship, destroying anti-aircraft guns and Nazi equipment on the ground during the Warsaw Uprising.

The third part is a rudimentary stealth game where, after a parachute jump, you have to make your way through a minefield and German fortifications to join the Armia Krajowa.

There is also a VR version of the game, Aviators VR, for Meta Quest 2, Meta Quest 3, and Oculus Rift, but it has worse reviews.

Game as textbook

All the military equipment, weapons, and environments in Aviators – War in the Skies are made with attention to historical details. During the game, you can see how the aircraft’s radio station and fire extinguisher work, how flares were fired directly from the plane without opening the cockpit, how much attention was paid to destroying their own equipment during a forced landing, and so on.

In all parts of the game there are historical references with good photos that tell about outstanding Polish pilots, women from the Auxiliary Forces, certain weapons, planes, and units. I’ve been fascinated by aviation since childhood and have read a lot about it, but I was also interested in reading about the Caterpillar Club, how the Germans hunted for English airborne radar, how they used captured English planes, and so on.

The game has a Ukrainian text localization, but it looks like it was created with Google Translate, especially in the historical references, where there are plenty of mistakes and just plain stupid.

Of course, Aviators – War in the skies also has historical inserts that explain the main events of World War II from the perspective of Poland. And they are the ones who are “to blame” for most of the negative reviews of the game. Most of the bad reviews of Aviators were written by Russians or their Chinese friends who do not like the Western interpretation of the events of World War II. And all the game’s authors had to do was to mention that in 1944 the German occupation changed to the Soviet occupation and they perceive the Russians not as liberators at all and remember well their role in suppressing the Warsaw Uprising.

To see how the Russians are faring, you need to select only negative reviews and turn off the “Preferred Languages” switch if you don’t have Russian on Steam (we remind you once again that it’s better to turn it off).

Game as propaganda

Games, along with movies and social media, are one of the few modern media that has a chance to reach young people. This is well understood by the governments of primarily non-democratic countries, which is why they try to control what games their citizens see and, accordingly, do not see. China is particularly diligent in the field of censorship.

Aviators – War in the skies is a good example of how a country can promote its own historical narratives to domestic and Western audiences. This game is free, which is why some flaws and short duration are forgiven (Aviators can be completed in an hour); it has a generally good Steam rating of 76/100; it has been tried by 20 to 60 thousand Steam users; it can be used in schools as a support material during history lessons or memorial lessons; it “burns” in Russians. Win-Win.

By the way, this is the second game by the duo Chronospace and Instytut Pamięci Narodowej: there is also a pretty good free Cyphers Game on Steam, dedicated to the Soviet-Polish war of 1919-1921. In addition, IPN sponsored the development of a free-to-play VR game Testimony of HELP about a Polish family that hid Jews during World War II and a turn-based tactical RPG WARSAW about the Warsaw Uprising. Now WARSAW is also free.

And finally, I would like to remind you that there is the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory, as well as many historical topics where walking simulation games can promote Ukrainian historical narratives. In this vein, you can make a game about the UPA, with a visit to a hideout, with a historical reconstruction of the most famous clashes between the UPA and the NKVD, with the participation of UPA soldiers in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, and so on. There are actually many topics: the First Liberation War, World War II, the Chornobyl disaster, etc.

As for aviation… the UPA did not have aviation, but the UPR did, and dozens of prominent aircraft designers worked in Kyiv in the early twentieth century. Isn’t this a good topic for Aviators UA? Especially since there is a studio in Kyiv that develops games about combat aircraft. What do you think of the idea, Wargaming Kyiv?