Last week, some folk voiced their concern that Vlambeer’s 2D dogfighter, Luftrausers - which our Matt liked rather a lot in his Luftrausers review - contained Nazi imagery and allowed players to play as a Nazi pilot. Second World War German forces see a lot of use in games, whether you’re fighting them in Wolfenstein or fighting as them in Company of Heroes, but this is not the case in Luftrausers, says studio co-founder Rami Ismail.
Ismail clarifies the setting, which takes place between the Second World War and the Cold War in an alternative history. “You’re not playing any existing enemy force, not the Nazi’s, not the Japanese, not the Soviets, not any force that existed,” says Ismail.
Vlambeer wanted to look at an age where there was a lot of fear regarding superweapons like flying fortresses and submersible planes, even though they didn’t exist. “For Luftrausers we wanted to place players in one of those superweapons. To achieve that, we needed the player to exist on the side we’d be spying on for it to make sense narratively. When we started out with the project our internal pitch for the style was something along ‘Superweapon dogfighting in a world with World War II-era Thunderbirds’”.
While Luftrausers takes place in an alternative history with players being an undefined enemy, Ismail believes that there isn’t a wrong interpretation of the game. “The fact is that no interpretation of a game is ‘wrong’. When you create something, you leave certain implications of what you’re making. We can leave our idea of what it is in there, and for us, the game is about superweapons. We think everybody who plays Luftrausers can feel that.
“But even more so in an interactive medium, we do have to accept that no way of reading those implications is ‘false’ – that if someone reads between the lines where we weren’t writing, those voids can be filled by the player, or someone else. If we accept there’s no wrong interpretation of a work, we also have to accept that some of those interpretations could not be along the lines of what we’re trying to create.”
Vlambeer is a Dutch developer and both Ismail and co-founder Jan Willem Nijman were born and raised in the Netherlands, which was invaded by German forces in the ‘40s. “Having been born and raised in the Netherlands, we are extremely aware of the awful things that happened, and we want to apologise to anybody who, through our game, is reminded of the cruelties that occurred during the war,” says Ismail.
Even though the goal wasn’t to present the player controlled pilot as a Nazi, Ismail apologises for it looking that way to some people. “We do have to accept that our game could make some people uncomfortable. We’re extremely sad about that, and we sincerely apologise for that discomfort.”