Videogames’ portrayal of the Holocaust does a disservice to both players and victims

BJ Blazkowicz

While Auschwitz is the most notorious of them all, the Nazis established over 40,000 concentration camps between 1933 and 1945. Some were used to force Jewish, Roma, LGBT, and other minorities to work, while others were used to systematically murder those people. In Treblinka alone, approximately 876,000 people were killed, and over 800,000 of the victims of this abhorrent violence were Jewish. Videogame portrayals of WWII and Nazism tend to shy away from this ugly truth, instead choosing to focus on the gun-on-gun conflicts of the time, ignoring the atrocities that backed them. 

The first game to touch on WWII was Castle Wolfenstein in 1981, but Nazis have been shown across popular culture since the ‘40s, appearing in radio shows such as Fibber McGee And Molly, where they were used as propaganda tools by the anti-fascist movements of the age. Even Superman and Captain America were on the airwaves as the war raged on, bringing down fascism with their fists. Back then, it was a fantasy escape from real-world horrors, a cathartic release to a world where a man in a red cape can zip across the planet in a flash and single-handedly bring down the most hateful ideology our world has ever seen. In comics and on the radio, these pop culture portrayals were a reminder that those reading and listening were on the right side of history. 

Nazis in pop culture have endured, of course, and we still see them appear as bad guys in films and games. But has the prevalence of Nazis in media led to them losing their impact? Once introduced into fiction as a coping mechanism, Nazis as they appear in videogames today are a default bad guy - fodder for you to shoot at without needing to feel bad about it. They’ve become as synonymous with videogame antagonists as zombies (hell, several games in Activision’s Call of Duty series combine the two) and they’re often portrayed as being just as mindless. 

“What people don't get is that this Hollywood image of Nazis was actually a very intentional representational coup for Jewish creators at the time,” one anonymous Jewish game designer tells me. “The Armenians and Tutsis should be so lucky as to have the folks responsible for their genocides thought of as metaphors for pure evil. Post-war Jewish creators in popular media wanted Nazis to be seen this way: rigid, laughable, scary-but-weak, unsympathetic, undebatably terrible. It was an approach designed to make an as-always divided America with pro-civil rights folks on the Left and pro-military folks on the Right both more sympathetic to Jews than they had been up until then, and it seems like it worked, at least for a while.”

Sniper Elite 4

After decades of being shown Nazis in this way, this approach is perhaps beginning to lose its effectiveness on the general public. Rather than portraying them as one-dimensional bad guys, should we also show how someone can slide into such an ideology? “To show them as caricatures is abhorrent - exactly as they did to the Jews,” Daniel Griliopoulos, the Jewish co-author of Ten Things Video Games Can Teach Us: (about life, philosophy and everything), says. “They weren't monsters - they had particular belief structures that made sense to them in the context of their time, and were grounded in philosophies that go all the way back to Plato. They had smart people like Martin Heidegger who thought that they were doing the right thing, because the moral unit for them wasn't the human being, but the Aryan human being, and everything else should be sacrificed. That's not an alien thought structure to anyone who values their countrymen over foreigners.

“If we treat Nazism as only manifested in soldiers who can be killed without qualms and evil leaders, we fail to confront the fact of how Nazism took root and could again among ‘normal’ people. Games that want to be taken seriously need to deal with the Nazi regime as it was, in the context of an era that believed in eugenics and racial superiority - as did many in the West - and a group of amoral politicians that capitalised on the desperate. The majority of Nazis looked like any person on an American and British high street, and they tried not to think about the people in the camps, like we try not to think about refugees trapped on our borders. Cartoon Nazis in ‘Allo ‘Allo!, Inglorious Basterds, and videogames alienate us from the everyday feel of these totalitarian regimes. If you morally equate the oppressors with the victims, as Inglorious Basterds does, or force us to be as bad as them, by murdering and torturing them, then you erode the moral lessons we could be learning from these games in favour of entertainment. 'Boo, Nazis' doesn't teach us anything.”

In 2017, Nazism is once again on the rise, hiding under the guise of the ‘Alt-Right’. Those caricatures aren’t cartoons any more: they’re on the news, they’re gathering huge followings on social media, and they might even live down your street. You’ll recognise them by their hateful views and, most tellingly, their Nazi salutes. Videogames, thus far, have stayed away from talking about modern Nazism. In fact, there are numerous instances of triple-A developers distancing themselves from politics. Though it doesn’t feature Nazis, Far Cry 5 is a recent example of this. Nintendo said they would never touch politics at all. Hell, even David Cage, who makes interactive movies over on PlayStation, said his games aren’t trying to say anything

This is often the same for games that depict historical Nazism. While it appears that Wolfenstein 2 is making some kind of grand political comment on our current world, developers MachineGames have said that this wasn’t intentional. They are clearly stating that Nazis are bad - which is, weirdly, somehow controversial in itself in 2017 - but the game’s lengthy development time meant that they didn’t know the game would launch in the modern political climate. 

“I was really encouraged by some early gameplay footage of Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, where two Nazis are talking about how violence against them is ‘never okay’, because ‘you can't just kill somebody with a different point of view’,” Jewish QA analyst Daniel Korn says. “I appreciated this dialogue because it's ironic and clearly meant to reflect how actual ‘Alt-Right’ Nazis talk on the internet. That is a ‘realistic’ portrayal of Nazis as they are today, even as the game itself takes place in a fantastical setting, and it makes me feel like MachineGames have done their research, and know who our enemies are. This approach to portrayal may also be a better way to illustrate the insidious ways in which people eventually become Nazis.”

wolfenstein 2 the new colossus open world

MachineGames may not be aiming to make a broader contemporary point, but they dare to do more with Nazis than turn them into simple shooting targets. Instead, they are mocked through clever, snappy, and cutting writing, which emerges from conversations that the player is allowed to eavesdrop on. But the paucity of such thoughtful depictions isn’t the main problem with portraying Nazism in videogames. You see, we’re also forgetting the victims. 

“I would really just like there to be more acknowledgement of Jews in games,” Korn tells me. “I don't think this is specific to Judaism; game stories tend to be pretty bad at acknowledging any sort of faith or cultural difference. But it makes me annoyed when, in Wolfenstein: The New Order, there are a few lines of dialogue that tease that BJ Blaskowicz may be Jewish, but it's never been canonically established. MachineGames’ devs have been cagey about it, and John Carmack has admitted that he always thought of BJ as Jewish, but ‘never gave the backstory all that much thought’. That's frustrating to me, because the emotions I attach to The New Order are fundamentally different when I think of BJ as a Jew. Suddenly, he becomes not just an avenger for his own personal strife, but an agent of vengeance for the entire Jewish people. That's powerful.”

While Nazis are being glamorised as Bond-esque villains, goose-stepping and twirling their moustaches, Jews are almost entirely absent from videogames. Not just Jewish victims of the gas chambers, but also the Jews who fought against the Nazis, pushed aside in favour for more traditional American heroes or British special forces soldiers. Over 50,000 Jewish men and women served the US army during WWII, there were one million Jews in the Allied forces, 30,000 in the British army, 100,000 in the Polish military, and 500,000 in the Soviet forces. There’s no doubt that videogames are doing a disservice to all of these fighters, as well as those killed in concentration camps. 

“There's just a very difficult balance between making sure a form of entertainment is entertaining while remembering what you're dealing with is horrific on every level,” Jewish content creator Simon Miller tells me. “In many ways it's actually impossible to execute properly because of the subject matter at hand. Even if you did present them as true to life as possible, it's still with the intent and purpose of selling a videogame, and that's a grey area to say the least. The problems arise because the entire landscape of what happened isn't covered. We focus on the battles, and we know that who we're fighting, in terms of ideologies, are evil to the core, but there's never a mention of concentration camps or the mass killings that went on outside of this, and nor should there be. That's an area which has no right being in a game in the way they're approached at the moment, but that does mean from a historical standpoint we're leaving very important events out.”

However Italian indie developers 101% are attempting to capture precisely such an area in their new virtual reality experience. Witness: Auschwitz is being created by a Jewish team who are hoping to highlight what was perhaps WWII’s biggest atrocity, in an age of social media Auschwitz tourist selfies. 

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“Witness: Auschwitz is a completely immersive experience that allows users to interact with the world that surrounds them, with the people, with themselves, and become ‘witnesses’ to one of the most tragic events in the history of humanity,” creative director Daniele Azara tells me. “The project is a new approach to teaching about the Shoah [the Hebrew word for the Holocaust]. A highly educational, individual journey, packed with information collected from authoritative sources and eyewitness accounts. Users will participate in the daily horror of the extermination camp, although no scenes of explicit violence are included. The context, generated in VR, increases the emotional engagement and the experience is imprinted in the mind in a completely innovative way compared to traditional media.”

Games can, of course, be a powerful storytelling tool, but is it morally justifiable to make a triple-A game as they exist today that touches on these topics, while also trying to sell DLC and adding in an XP-farming multiplayer component? Perhaps, like with Witness: Auschwitz, the answer lies in the indie scene, where games such as This War of Mine and Papers, Please have proved that games can tackle serious issues respectfully and thoughtfully. Even if a videogame successfully highlights one of the conflict’s horrors, however, WWII is still a vast, complex mess, and there’s no way to capture every single facet of one of humanity’s most disgusting historical periods. 

This War of Mine

Still, in the current political climate, it feels important that we try, and that we don’t sugarcoat it when we do. “If you want to show gamers what it is they are fighting for, the Holocaust cannot be ignored,” Jewish journalist Max Covill explains. “There are countless Holocaust deniers in the world that say the events never happened, but well-educated individuals know what happened. Too many of the youths in America might not fully grasp what the Allies are fighting for in these videogames. There is no doubt that videogames have a great deal of influence over young adults. There should be a greater effort to show how vile these times were.”

Since Nazism is on the rise once more, videogames could play a part in counteracting it through catharsis and education, just as Superman and his super-powered friends once did. Today, the Alt-Right are anti-immigration, mock the LGBT community, and scapegoat anyone with a different belief system. Hitler and his forces did the same during WWII. The Führer famously said, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” He used lies to control people, and any media outlets speaking the truth against him would be dubbed “Lügenpresse”, or “lying press.” It’s the proto ‘fake news’. History has a habit of repeating itself when people forget, you see, but are videogames the right place to remind us? They’re bigger than any other entertainment medium, after all, but often the medium with the least to say. 

Call of Duty World at War

“Do you show the persecution of the Roma, LGBTQ, other minorities, that suffered as well?” asks Larry Kuperman, the Jewish business development director at Nightdive Studio. “Take the story of the Treblinka extermination camp. It was second only to Auschwitz in the number of Jews that were killed there. People were packed so tightly into the gas chambers that when the doors were opened, they were often still standing, dead on their feet, mothers still holding children. Yet an observation window was installed so that visitors could watch the operation. How can you capture the horror? Treblinka was also the site of an uprising in 1943. The starved prisoners stole rifles, burned the buildings, and about 200 escaped. Many were recaptured and the camp would resume operations. At least two of the few that rebelled, survived and escaped would later commit suicide out of guilt at surviving. Do you make that into an action game? Does that distort the memory of the hundreds of thousands that died there or do we use it to celebrate the bravery of those that rose up? The real story makes a depressing game.”

Perhaps the answer lies in metaphor. In point-and-click adventure game I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, players go on a dark, dystopian journey from the perspectives of five different characters. Nazis are never explicitly mentioned in the story and there’s no Nazi iconography, but an entire section of the game was ripped out of the German release because of how it mirrors the events of WWII. “There were depictions of inhumane medical experiments, mass graves, and references to the ‘lost tribe’, who were clearly meant to be Jews,” Alice Grunstra, ex-QA lead at Perfect World, tells me. “Part of what made it so effective is that in that section, you are playing as [a Nazi] - and you are asked to perform some truly horrific acts, as well as some very compassionate ones. The story arc of the character you control during that section is all about redemption, and that provides important context for what you're doing. Videogames are in a unique position here, because they can force a player to do something morally reprehensible and then deal with the consequences of what they just did, and it can be a real gut-punch when done well.”

I have no mouth and I must scream

A similar approach has been taken in the world of superheroes, holding up a mirror to real-world issues through fantastical fiction. Just like how Superman became a symbol for hope at the height of WWII, the X-Men have been doing political commentary since Marvel introduced them. “It’s never about Jews, it’s never about black people, it’s always about mutants - mutants standing in for the ‘other’, then they explore that with which ‘other’ is the most appropriate in the present day,” CCP senior comms lead George Kelion says. “I think analogy parable is good, because it allows you to read more into it. If you’re too prescriptive, then you’re going to foster a reaction that leads to people feeling alienated. Alienated people tend to form groups and write racist screeds on 4chan. I’d be terrified if there was a Jewish protagonist in a game. Look what happens with women. Look what happens every time there’s a black guy in a videogame. Look what happened with the cover of Battlefield 1! Having a Jewish protagonist would run completely counter to my self-preservation instinct.”

And yet, there is a value to tackling subjects head-on, forcing players to confront horror - to make them feel something. With metaphor, you run the risk that some might not parse the message. Already, we can see the word Nazi beginning to lose its impact, with people using terms like ‘grammar nazi’ and ‘feminazi’, and referring to PC videogame players as the ‘master race’. 

wolfenstein 2 release date

During the course of WWII, the Nazis did extensive experiments based around mass sterilisation, chemically sealing off women’s fallopian tubes, or using X-rays to irradiate people’s reproductive organs. Terrified and starving children were experimented on, too. Dr. Josef Mengele had a particular interest in childhood twins, and would put them through painful examinations over the course of hours. Once finished, they would be killed by injection so the doctor could conduct an autopsy. The Nazis saw these persecuted minorities as subhuman, in a bid to remove themselves from the reality of what they were doing their fellow people. By constantly portraying Nazis as shooting targets and forgetting to show the real horrors of WWII, are we also neglecting to remember the conflict’s human cost? 

“Nazis evils must be showcased,” says Ari Marmell, Jewish writer on State of Decay 2. “Their persecution of Jews, Romani, LGBT, people of colour must be emphasised - and not just the persecution, but the results: the camps; the people machine-gunned into ditches they were forced to dig; the people led into the gas chambers - all of it. This must be present, every time. It must be emphasised, every time. If your game does not have room to showcase what Nazis actually are and what they want, then your game does not have room to include Nazis at all. Do it right, or don't do it - and deciding not to do it because you don't want to do it right is cowardice. As entertainers, we have an obligation beyond just entertaining. When it comes to major historical or social issues, we have an obligation to educate - not overtly, not by preaching, but simply by making sure our entertainment doesn't gloss over the truth. We have to keep including Nazis as villains - in fact, we have to do so more - but only in their horrible and disturbing entirety.”

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Decal141 avatarAnanym avatarShadowized avatarrockman0z avatar[FSE] podank avatarTheTrainStation avatar+15
Ananym Avatar
104
1 Month ago

If I wanted Kotaku UK, I'd go to Kotaku UK. If we're going to bring twitter-tier political discourse to PCGamesN, can we at least skip the "Everyone with different opinions is a Nazi" phase? It isn't even particularly relevant to the article, but you felt the need to namecall anyway.

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Shadowized Avatar
137
1 Month ago

well said. I've complained about it as well in previous articles and it really is frustrating for it to appear in my RSS feeds with no ability to filter it out since the site doesn't have categories like most every other blog.

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[FSE] podank Avatar
16
1 Month ago

Yep, enough is enough already. Bye PCGamesN, was good while it lasted!

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rockman0z Avatar
43
1 Month ago

I generally just started going to stuff like GamesPress.com where you can do all that investigative journalism for yourself without all the whatever this is called.

Seriously, keep fighting the good fight you world wide web warriors

#tweetfromyourcouchforjustice

#offendedconstantly

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Ben Barrett Avatar
485
1 Month ago

I don't see many 3,500 word, well-researched, multiple-POV articles on Twitter dot com but I'd love to have your follow list if you do. Seems like they're beating the character limit somehow.

Jokes aside, if you don't like the subject of an article, nothing is making you read it. If their mere presence on the website makes you stop reading, there's not a lot we can do about that. Reception (and every other metric we measure) to this article has been very good, and I expect you will see more of them. Alongside all the news, reviews, previews, celebratory pieces, history, patch notes and anything else we can come up with in the meantime.

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Shadowized Avatar
137
1 Month ago

you just don't understand, this sites purpose is literally in the title and you're trying to diverge into other things that have absolutely nothing at all to do with it. look, we get it, you want to be real journalists and talk about pressing issues, including politics, but you should ask yourselves is this really the platform for it...? please don't strive to become Kotatu or RPS, you're better than that.

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Joel Gregory Avatar
54
1 Month ago

Certainly flattered that you think we're better than Kotaku and RPS, even if we're not striving to be them :)

We do believe that this is the platform for a discussion of this sort, just as it's the platform for news and reviews and funny gifs. It's relevant to PC gaming in that we're discussing the portrayal of these in videogames. If you don't want to read these kinds of articles that's fine (the headlines should always be clear enough to allow you to sidestep them!), and hopefully you can find plenty of other stuff on PCGN to enjoy.

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Ananym Avatar
104
1 Month ago

No no, I like the article being here. I'd just prefer if you didn't equate people who don't hold every view you do to literal Nazis, because that sort of hyperbole helps nobody.

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Joel Gregory Avatar
54
1 Month ago

In no way are we accusing people with 'different opinions' of being Nazis - this piece is a discussion about the portrayal of literal Nazis and the Holocaust in videogames. It's not only relevant to the article, it's what the article is actually about.

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Ananym Avatar
104
1 Month ago

Paragraph beginning "In 2017, Nazism is once again on the rise, hiding under the guise of the ‘Alt-Right’. " wherein you decry anyone espousing certain values as literal hateful nazis.

Alt-right is just a catch term for the younger generation who haven't particularly interacted with any traditional conservative movements, but still see the horrors in the #KillAllMen sorts, the "Rape claims are true by default" sorts, the devastation inflicted on European cities by floods of unhandled migrants, and the damage done to defenceless children encouraged to discard their gender identity to undergo irreversable hormone treatments and surgery. We're not nazis. We're not hateful. But we aren't going to just sit and watch this happen.

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Chris Higgins Avatar
31
1 Month ago

I...er...wow.

Kid, I hate to be the one to break this to you but describing immigrants as "floods", blaming them for "devastation" of European cities and invoking "defenceless children" in disagreement with LGBT rights are all neo-Nazi talking points.

You're a Nazi, son.

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Ananym Avatar
104
Ananym replied to Chris Higgins
1 Month ago

I'm glad for you if these issues don't personally affect you. That doesn't make them any less important.

What values do you think you're championing by opposing those sentiments? They're perfectly normal things to have adverse reactions to. Going about calling for violence against anyone you claim is a "Nazi" for holding pretty normal, common sense views is a great way to do nothing but add fuel to the fire.

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{DFT}[3]Wikster Avatar
14
3 Weeks ago

1: Getting hung up on verbiage, is probably the weakest link I've ever heard for claiming someone is against foreign immigration. He could have said, "mass quantities" and it wouldn't change the fact that there is a huge influx of foreign immigrants.

2: Go look into the current condition of Sweden, the now rape capital of Europe, which harbors portions of town police no longer/can't control/patrol, so they just don't. Because immigrants from the middle east have made those locations so hostile it's dangerous for even police to go. Go find the survey in which a majority of natural from-birth-female-Swedish-citizens say they're scared to walk through their own city without male accompaniment specifically because of the immigration issues. Now shift to Germany, it's massive influx in terrorist attacks, and how many of them are executed by middle easterners.

3: At no point did Ananym say he/she disagrees with rights that LGBTQ community should have. What he did say is that forcing children to adhere to concepts they don't have the mental capacity to wrap their minds around at a single-digit age, is completely f*cked. But way to jump to conclusions, and not actually read what he/she said.

If you're arguing that a intrinsic right that should be available to all LGBTQ individuals is to tell their child or children who/what they are, and go so far as to force them into hormone therapy, then I think you have a screw loose. I think LGBTQ communities should be free from biases/stereotypes/criticism/hate crime, etc for their beliefs and life practices, I think they should have the same rights as the rest of us until proven otherwise. But I sure as hell don't think they should be able to manipulate and morph a child against their will at a time in their young life where they aren't capable of making their own decisions both mentally due to young age/an under developed brain, and physically when they have no way to actually do anything other than what their parents support.

So no, Ananym is not a Nazi, but you sir, are an a**hole, and very clearly blind to the facts of these problems. Siding with your feelings and emotions, siding with things that feel emotionally right is not always the correct decision.

Pull your head out of your a** and go read about the stats, numbers, and facts involved in multi-faceted problems like foreign and domestic immigration, and crime escalation, you clearly haven't already.

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et operiet ipsos formido Avatar
33

I was confused by Ananym's comment at first--I actually thought it might be in reply to a moderated comment or some such. I just couldn't figure out who was being "namecalled".

It seems some people are taking offense to "Nazism is once again on the rise, hiding under the guise of the ‘Alt-Right’", as far as I can tell? Which is odd given that the term alt-right was literally coined by Richard Spencer, an individual that actively promotes "peaceful" ethnic cleansing and white "identitarianism". I mean, if even Breitbart calls him "center of alt-right thought"...

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hfm Avatar
223
1 Month ago

Man, the upvotes and downvotes on these comments are truly depressing.

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MadHattr Avatar
3
1 Month ago

While most parts of this article I respectfully disagree with, two parts make me very uncomfortable.

1) "While Nazis are being glamorised as Bond-esque villains, goose-stepping and twirling their moustaches, Jews are almost entirely absent from videogames. Not just Jewish victims of the gas chambers, but also the Jews who fought against the Nazis, pushed aside in favour for more traditional American heroes or British special forces soldiers. Over 50,000 Jewish men and women served the US army during WWII, there were one million Jews in the Allied forces, 30,000 in the British army, 100,000 in the Polish military, and 500,000 in the Soviet forces. There’s no doubt that videogames are doing a disservice to all of these fighters, as well as those killed in concentration camps. "

Who said the American heroes or British special forces soldiers aren't Jewish? What's missing isn't Jews, but narrative arrows above the heads of characters saying "this one's family observes the Sabbath, and that one was circumcised by someone without medical training". Which isn't the same as being Jewish, really, as Jewish identity can be absolutely transparent if the person is a secular ethnic Jew. I know that Judaism being a religion as well as ethnicity is headache-inducing, but when the article is about representation of Jews, there's no way around this.

2) Tied to the first point, I cringed every time an interviewee's ethnicity was mentioned. As a reader, I really don't need to hear whose mother belonged to the same ethnic group as mine. It doesn't give their opinions more weight, and gives me absolutely zero useful information about them.

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Dalien Avatar
30
4 Weeks ago

I'm a liberally-aligned individual, and this strikes me as supremely touchy, hypersensitive bloviating. This is what conservatives, in the US at least, rally against as "PC bullshit".

If we're going to be hypersensitive about everything, then we might as well stay home and never talk to anyone. Someone's feelings will always be hurt... it's impossible to make everyone happy. Just use common sense and don't be offensive for no reason, just for shock value... otherwise, anything goes.

The minute we start getting hypersensitive about things, we eliminate the possibility of dealing with them in a mature way and thus moving pas them.

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luzarius Avatar
4
3 Weeks ago

Basically what this writer wants is a RPG set in a WWII Nazi/Jewish opression setting. So guys don't come down too hard on him. I know his article screams SJW, but he what he's asking for is a deep Bioware/CDPR style RPG with dialogue choices and role play options that will bring you closer to what Nazi's were thinking and what the victims were going through. I actually strongly support the idea. A lot of the WWII games that come out right now are just empty stupid shooters and I don't even play any of them lol. I prefer RPGs and I think a lot of you like RPGs. Imagine being able to choose dialogue options to navigate your way through the tavern scenario in inglorious bastards to avoid a fight, that would be cool. Of course the RPG would need solid gameplay mechanics because through the challenge it will bring you closer and closer to the content of the game.

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[SOUR] Johnny Avatar
24
1 Month ago

"They are clearly stating that Nazis are bad - which is, weirdly, somehow controversial in itself in 2017 "

It's really not.

Good article though.

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hfm Avatar
223
1 Month ago

Agreed. It's clearly not controversial at all. Those that ARE Nazis will of course not see anything controversial about it because they think they are the correct view. The rest of us (thankfully a majority) disagree.

I never thought we'd back here battling Nazis as a real non-trivial entity again 72 years later, but here we are. I suppose 72 years is long enough for the events that transpired in WWII to be far enough in the past where no one has a real attachment to how truly vile that time was.

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Kinth! Avatar
201
1 Month ago

"As entertainers, we have an obligation beyond just entertaining." - No they don't. Entertainers have one obligation, to entertain. Acting like games have to be some kind of statement is kind of the problem, if your game wants to make a statement then fair enough. Don't rail on others for not doing what you want though. Some people still play games purely for entertainment. This statement also doesn't really make sense, because at some point it stops being entertainment for most people (or should). I don't find hearing how millions were killed in horrible ways in a truly horrific event, particularly entertaining. It not being entertainment doesn't mean it doesn't belong in games, since entertainment isn't the only use for games. Trying to mix that and entertainment is just going to lead to a very jarring experience.

Ari himself doesn't follow his own statement. Where has Ari gone beyond entertainment in State of Decay 2, a game that also picked an easy thoughtless enemy set. Are you going to get every zombie's personal story before you kill them, to force you to remember that they were once human before you slaughter a horde of them?

It's also not worth it for devs to tackle these issues. They will just get shit for it from both sides including the side they thought would agree with them. I can already see it " Bethesda are trying to paint Nazi's as likeable people to make it harder to kill them! They sympathise with neo-nazis!" because in the world of outrage culture there is no way to appease the far on either side, let alone both.

Any political debate they hoped to foster will just get lost in the fog when the far parts of both sides start flinging shit at each other. Then comment sections will just get shutdown when sites think they are going to see opinions they don't agree with. Just like PCGamesN does on most of their political news, but you still make sure to get your opinion in there. Which is somewhat contradictory when it seems you are dying to start a political discussion. I'm sure the excuse will be "We saw was harassment/misogyny/sexism/racism!" and I don't doubt that you did see some (though on the other end many see any criticism of these political groups as harassment). Shutting down discussion over it just means they win though. Picking or choosing what you are willing to discuss doesn't foster good or healthy discussion.

I would like to see a game that shows that many Nazi's believed they were the the good guys. The idea of believing you are doing good/are the good guy and the things people are willing to do for that belief, can be extremely dangerous. It's also a great juxtaposition for how many war games these days are propaganda for our war efforts, where we have invaded countries believing we are the good guys. Such a game would get slaughtered critically though because people would miss the point (accidentally or purposefully). I don't think game devs who are unwilling to tackle these issues are cowards. Most people don't go into that industry to make a political statement.

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DeShawn1 Avatar
1
4 Weeks ago

FTA “To show them as caricatures is abhorrent - exactly as they did to the Jews,”

I'm not sure if quoting the religious/ethnic provenance of the speaker, ("Daniel Griliopoulos, the Jewish co-author"), makes this okay - actually I am sure - it doesn't. The logical corollary of this statement is that those who may treat Nazi's as caricatures aren't just similar to Nazi's but are "exactly" like Nazi's. I think this kind of hyperbole is unhelpful and frankly silly. While trying to infer the gravity of his concern the actual result, for me the reader, was a wariness of the overall thesis being posited.

One significant over-arching problem with Nazi-ism, and other similar systems of thought, is the unwillingness to allow for alternative opinion. Everything is laid out, with no need for the ownership of personal morality or responsibility. All discourse is binary, on or off, this or that, black or white, alive or dead. All matters settled and tidy.

I would argue it is the inability, and more dangerously the unwillingness, to perceive and adjust to our differences, our strengths and weaknesses, that make the rise of absolutism something to be avoided - regardless of how comforting the benefit of someone else doing all the heavy lifting for us may seem.

I am not advocating for all matters of human discourse to be thrown in the air as fodder for debate. Certain areas of our understanding are immutable regardless of how strongly we may feel to the contrary.

Absolutism, when applied to video games, using statements like, "As entertainers, we have an obligation beyond just entertaining.", are really so unintelligible to me as to be practically pointless and, in some respects, defy a good deal of what entertainment, for me, is meant to be about.

Emotionally resonant story-telling, that you might actually learn something from, does have an appeal but please don't attempt to vilify me for pretending to harpoon an imaginary whale without taking the time to know and understand that it may have been an endangered species, or saving an imaginary princess even though it meant the pointless imaginary deaths of 50 or 60 palace guards all with wives and families of their own. If every gaming experience was, as is being suggested here, to be so fraught with teeth-sucking and whinging about imaginary portrayals, or lack thereof, of historical characters I’d simply have to find another form of distraction. Cognitive dissonance is much of what really appeals to me where my video game experiences are concerned and I make no apologies for it.

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jLaw10123 Avatar
8
1 Month ago

A compelling, well-researched, thought-provoking, and educational article. The exact kind of writing videogames needs more of, thank you <3

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Vikki Blake Avatar
9
1 Month ago

A thoughtful and provocative read - thanks for this, Kirk.

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Decal141 Avatar
44
1 Month ago

Nazis should always be belittled and punched wherever they appear.

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TheTrainStation Avatar
36
1 Month ago

What makes a nazi?

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nikeyg Avatar
3
1 Month ago

Seems to be not being able to get dates.

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