Mar 102017
 

Miscellaneous Musings: My Stance on the Depiction of Nazis in Gaming

 

So, this miscellaneous musing was ultimately prompted by several designers and friends asking, time and again, for my stance on the issue of the depiction of Nazis in media as adversaries and whether I am comfortable with it. The answer to the question, ultimately, is significantly more complex than one would believe. It should be noted that my observations stem from my own frame of experience and reference and in no way presume to speak for anyone else.

 

I assume that a significant portion of my readers is American, thus I’ll begin with the US as direct comparison. Most Germans I know of, when confronted by the pride US citizens tend to feel and exhibit for their country, take some time to stop feeling weirded out…same goes for other countries, but yeah. When you’re visiting Germany, you’ll notice, to this day, a distinct absence of flags waving in the wind. In fact, the only time when you’ll see a significant amount of them will be during big soccer tournaments. Germans ultimately are not comfortable waving flags, at least for the most part. (Yes, we have jingoistic idiots around here as well, but there aren’t that many.)

 

Why is that? Well, to use an anecdote from my own life: When I was a young child, I already devoured a lot of books and had a keen interest in history. At one point, I started asking questions…and found out that we had not only lost two world wars, we had arguably been the REALLY BAD GUYS in one. As in “all-caps, redefines what real world evil means”-level bad guys. I found the pictures of those crippled by war in our history books; heck, the creepy grandma without a jawbone from my great-grand mother’s town suddenly elicited sympathy instead of fear. At the same time, I couldn’t really believe what I read. I mean, my neighbors, all the folks I knew, my grandparents, etc. – they were good guys, right? It was like finding out that your favorite neighbor was dismembering animals in his cellar…with the implication that everyone you know was doing the same thing. It’s one of those realizations that shake you to the core.

 

Well, turns out that my family had lost their fair share of members to the Nazis and their madness. My grandparents on my mom’s side of the family were forcefully evicted from their home in Danzig and had to escape, first from the Nazis, then from the allies. The deeper I went, the deeper the misery got. When I told my friends, showed them the pictures I had found, I was punched once and some parents refused to let their kids come over. After all, I had given them nightmares with the pictures I showed them in my parent’s history books. I was furious. My fellow kids had to know this…right? Well, turns out that my discovery was not greeted with any sort of enthusiasm or zeal to spread the word that such a thing could have happened in our home, the country we all lived in.

 

At one point, later in life, I began understanding the reaction of my fellow Germans. The concept of German Guilt is very real and ingrained into most of us from a pretty early age on. And there is no denying it. Literally. From the vast emptiness of the “Platz der Opfer des Faschismus” in Nuremberg to museums and memorials, there are reminders strewn throughout the country that remind us to never forget. This has, at least to a certain degree, crippled German nationalism in both people and media – those statements about Germany being the motor of the EU, of the non-conservative free world? You won’t see such statements show up in German newspapers. When you read them in English, Norwegian or US papers, the experience is kinda surreal if you’re a German.

This crippled national pride has its definite plusses: Compared to other countries, our political far right is very much ostracized, and for good reason. Heck, our conservative party is more liberal than the Democrats in many stances. Denying the holocaust can get you into jail, and swastikas, Nazi imagery etc. are all actually forbidden.

 

That being said, this lack of national pride also generates this weird experience of living in a country without being allowed to love or like it, at least in the way that other nations can show their appreciation for the constructed entity that is a state. Another example from my own life, much later. In fact, the one that made me realize why my previous failures to spread the word about the misdeeds of Germans had fallen on less than enthused ears. I was in school, puberty had hit and pretty much already the ostracized guy, the freak, the weirdo in the trench-coat with the segmented rings. We were asked whether we liked Germany and felt a sense of pride regarding our country. I raised my hand in the affirmative, having just read Faust, Steppenwolf and other greats of German literature in my first burst of truly diving into this literature. I was the only one in a class of over 40 people to do so. They came at me like vultures sensing carrion and it was the first time I was called a Nazi by another German. I threw rebuttal after rebuttal at the accusations, seething with righteous anger; I was furious. From my great-grandma’s tales, I was keenly aware of the horrors both World Wars had wrought and being told that I was one of those despicable Nazi-thugs made me actually, truly, furious.

 

So I reasoned. I told my fellow pupils about the wonders our literature and culture offered, quoted some of my favorite poems…and when the teacher’s pets had to finally concede their points, the teacher stepped in and smashed me down – not with reasoning, mind you, but with the umbrella-statement that “Germans should not be proud.” Not of their country, mind you…but of ANYTHING. Personal achievements may be halfway okay, but yeah. That year was the year I had to repeat a class. I went from one of the best in German to constant 5s (which are one step short of “F”s and pretty devastating) in my written assignments. That was when it slowly, but steadily dawned upon me – not only the extent of the random hypocrisy of the education system, but why this reaction happened.

 

Those people that now so feverishly kept insisting with every fiber of their being that anything German is bad…they were the teacher’s pets. The conformists. Those that did not bother looking up the details. The folks that bawled their eyes out when we visited Auschwitz and told me I was cold as ice for not reacting in the same manner. The people that publicly had to display their ostensible disgust to establish a common frame of moral reference to feel like they belong – not based on a moral compass, but based on the pressure of conformity. German Normcore is a thing – being “normal” is elevated to almost an art-form and conforming to any type of social standards is very much ingrained in a lot of the folks round here, to this date. One of the things I found refreshing in the US was the old folks with long hair, the obvious biker dudes and ladies, the tattooed guy in the suit – the broader acceptance of individual forms of expression. I digress.

 

Now, this striving for belonging does not apply to all Germans, obviously – but it is my contention that this longing for conformity, for belonging (“To be” and “longing” – compounds can be pretty revealing in their construction), has, time and again and particularly in the absence of national pride as an identification construct, been used by malignant ideologies to bring the people in line. I was told I would have been the guy marching with the SS, just because, at that time, I loved my black leather trench coats. (That was pre-Matrix, just fyi.) The matter of fact is that I probably wouldn’t have managed to keep my big mouth with its incessant questions shut, not even under threat of death. I am not a good follower. I am pretty much the advocatus diaboli and derive a ton of pleasure from well-reasoned discussions…and discussions, questions, dialogues with the media, are not what totalitarian regimes and their ideologies thrive on. There was a reason for the SS preferring its rank and file members to not exceed a certain IQ.

 

The reason those people kept bashing me down? The reason they behaved in such a, to me, wholly irrational way? A more empathetic person would have realized this earlier, considered it more readily apparent. They were, at the bottom of their hearts, afraid. Afraid, not necessarily consciously, that the pressure of conformity would have made them willing instruments of such an evil regime….because they feel the need to belong, to conform to a society’s expectations. Because, they long to be – something else than the tabula rasa we start as; something else than the hard to construct entity called an identity that we all work on, daily, to achieve. A big construct like a nation, like a circle of people that identifies as parts of a whole, can take all that taxing work off one’s shoulders.

 

This is not intended as a blanket-statement, mind you; but at the same time, it is my firm conviction that it holds true for a lot of folks, no matter the nationality. Whereas nations like Norway or the US can celebrate their sense of belonging, cherish a national identity that is a source of positivity for them, this does not hold true for most Germans. And yes, said identification can and always be misused, but I do believe that barring these cases, it represents an inherently positive social construct.

 

Indeed, in our interactions with other nationalities, Germans learn pretty early on to be despised. Now earlier, I mentioned that other nations tend to have a more diversified view of Germany – that may hold true, but not universally. I have, over the course of my life, been called a Nazi in many a country I visited – and while my disgust at such an appellation, while the hurt was real, it was worse when people actually told me how much they loved what the Nazis had done, shocasing not only that hate is a global phenomenon, but that is very much still alive.

 

That tends to be when I go ballistic, when my indignation at such a blatant disregard of human life, at such a display of historic analphabetism knows no frickin’ bounds. Why? Because it taps into this opaque notion of guilt for something no German of my generation or younger had any part in; because it taps into a comparison with an ideology we are literally taught to hate, even if our own moral compass does not already make us loathe it. In short: No matter the reason, such statements cause an almost physical revulsion on my part.

 

The best analogue to describe this sense of gravitas, of weight, would perhaps be biblical – the concept of Erblast (literally: inherited burden), of the sins of the father passing down to the children. It is this monumental cloud of negativity that colors every aspect of the concept of nationality, that enforces, ironically, a need to constantly reaffirm how bad we feel for something my generation had no part in.

 

The symptoms of normcore-pressure in interaction with this collective Erblast go even deeper, to the point where several forms of media, from video-games to movies, are heavily censored in Germany in what is called “vorauseilender Gehorsam”  -obedience in advance. After all, we have to avoid depictions in media that, in any way, have any resemblance to historic or gratuitous violence in all but the most condemning circumstances. If a certain notion is not considered to be socially acceptable, it is censored; even without state-regulations explicitly demanding it – a censorship in advance, if you will. To say that I have a big issue with such censorship is an understatement, to say the least.

 

Why? Because it does not eliminate any backwards ideology, it just represses it, forces the misguided and fanatic into the underground of backroom talk and the private sphere.

 

This may make public life “safer” and more discrimination-free than when allowed to roam rampant.

But it does not change the views of the people.

You can make someone with bad prejudices not utter them, sure…but this does not eliminate the prejudices.

It is a question of whether you want to eliminate the cause or the symptom.

Safe spaces and self censorship do exactly nothing to eliminate the cause of any type of horrid conviction, whether it pertains discrimination against another person based on gender, sexuality, ethnicity or nationality – it just makes them keep their mouth shut. It makes the idiots shut up, sure – but it also prevents anyone from contradicting them, from standing up for one’s ideals in the face of atrocious statements

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Meanwhile, the ideology grows stronger, gains traction, festers like an untended wound and with the advent of the internet, the argument that, at least, thus the fanaticized won’t spread their opinions, has become null and void. They just limit their utterances to the private spaces wherein there can be no dissent, no contradiction.

Heck, we’re seeing this festering worldwide; the symptom of people feeling disenfranchised and not being able to speak their minds without being ostracized.

 

Sure, many of these folks will say things that horrify or disgust us…but without dialogue, how can we hope to win them over, to make them see that they’ve been had, that they’re falling for the same BS people have been falling since time immemorial?

 

Ultimately, it often boils down to the mentality of “Us” versus “Them” – you construct a collective social identity by establishing what is not part of said identity, then establish degrees of category membership and then, you blame all currently going wrong for your members on one or more convenient scapegoats – whether it’s the Roma, the Jews, the LGBTQ-community….or…well, you can easily continue that list when taking a close look at how the far right behaves in any country you choose.

 

The consequence of censorship, of vorauseilender Gehorsam, and the pressures of normativity, ironically feed the very ideologies they seek to suppress. The structures of any form of hegemony will always invariably result in some people who are disenfranchised by their lot in life and the public consensus. The opinions and convictions held by these people do not go away by simply silencing them with social pressure and threats. The problem here is self-evident: The consensus of suppression can be easily manipulated by the very ideologies it tries to keep in check and ties into the structure of degrees of category membership with an ideology.

Martin Niemöller once wrote:

„Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Kommunist.
Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.
Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.
Als sie mich holten, gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren konnte.“

 

“When the Nazis took the communists away, I remained silent; after all, I was no communist.

When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; after all, I was no social democrat.

When they took the labor union members, I remained silent; after all, I was no labor union member.

When they took me, there was no one left to protest.”

 

These lines have had a profound impact on me ever since I first read them. They illustrate how any form of authoritarian regime works; you create a blanket identity consisting of scapegoats and prejudices, one that appeals to a sufficiently large demographic; you establish a power-base, discredit the agents of social consensus of the current hegemony, link your scapegoat to the status-quo and then, you move in from the outskirts of social acceptability and increase the pressure from there onward. First, you force the people at the fringes to conform and submit; the weaker and less of a public lobby they have, the better.

 

This invariably weakens your opposition; heck, perhaps you can goad a couple of members of the opposition to your side. Then, you constantly tighten the noose; you move inwards, solidify the core ideology. That’s how they get you. Perhaps you’re perfectly fine with the immigrant who has this amazing restaurant downtown, but just can’t stand seeing homosexuals kissing in public; perhaps you don’t have an issue with the LGBT-community, but loathe those long-haired punks clad in black; perhaps it really riles you up when someone’s not speaking the “proper” language. If an ideology condemns all of these folks, one such condemnation may suffice, depending on the depth of the prejudice in question, to secure a sense of belonging (remember – “longing to be”; longing to be something), of the feeling that you’re part of something that “gets” you, that finally allows you to “speak your mind” – literally.

Only thing is…you don’t.

The devious aspect here, beyond the divide and conquer approach, is that the ideology starts speaking FOR the individual. It replaces the individual with a blanket identity that, ironically, takes away the component of individual existence, the “to be” is subsumed in “belonging”. There are bound to be topics on which those suckered in a given blanket identity are indifferent towards, perhaps even against the collective stance of the respective manifesto; feeling like one is belonging to such a movement doesn’t suddenly make the respective folks hate-spewing maniacs. To take the aforementioned example: A person will not suddenly hate the food offered at the immigrant’s restaurant, or come to despise the people running it. But their voice is subsumed under the collective, established identity and dissent against such a strong, identity-constituting element is HARD. After all, the ideology conforms with your views. Right?

 

Here’s the thing – it does not. There is no individual “to be” in such a construct, just a passive voice version of it. I called it a blanket identity, because, like a blanket, it can be drawn over your head – and make you a blind bump under a larger sheet, subsuming your identity-construing elements.

 

Unless you are part of the core ideology, slowly indoctrinated and converted, any blanket identity, like many a political party, may have some aspects you agree with, others you don’t. But it does not care. This is the paradox of our conditio humana, which is, time and again, exploited by fascists, oligarchists, communists…you name them. (Yes, “them” is just such a blanket identity!)

 

We are conditioned to think in binaries, good and evil, us and them, light and dark. As long as absolutes like this cloud our world-view, we’ll be susceptible to manipulation by horrid ideologies. And if you think “That can’t happen here!” – think again. Nietzsche spoke of the eternal recurrence. In a woefully simplified manner of speaking, the concept of history repeating itself. (Seriously, read Nietzsche. As far as philosophers go, he’s really easy to read and grasp and significantly more enlightening than his use by smarty-pants kids in puberty may suggest.)

 

Ironically for a philosopher whose work has been taken out of context by the Nazis in their strategy of media manipulation and malignant misinformation, he saw it coming: The Übermensch concept of Nietzsche does not pertain to a master race as how the Nazis understood it; it sought to cultivate a psyche beyond the dichotomies that allowed time and again, atrocities to happen. It sought to elevate human thinking beyond the concepts that have allowed such massacres to happen again and again and again  -one could reason that Jacques Derrida, Lacan and similar influential minds have been greatly influenced in their theses by this very concept. In short – it represents a benign concept, much like a national identity, that was taken out of context and tainted, misrepresented.

 

If we take a look at human history, genocides of, whatever was deemed to be “them” at any given time and place, have not been isolated phenomena. The genocides and atrocities committed by the Nazis are not singular instances in our history as human beings as far as their savagery and loathsomeness are concerned; only the scope and disturbing efficiency with which they were conducted was “new”- courtesy of both all the minds subjugated under their ideology, and of the technology at their beck and call. I honestly shudder at the thought of what they could hav done with our current level of technological advancement…

 

I am convinced that we have to, at one point, transcend the recurring frames of mind that allow such dichotomy-using ideologies to prosper. Forbidding and censoring taboos are not only ineffective, such acts and constructs do not change the mindset of anyone. There will always be folks that simply do not want to see the error of their ways, but without dialogue, without standing up for our values, for freedom, for democracy, for whatever you consider to be a worthy ideal for our species, without an open dialogue that is the very foundation of our countries, how are we supposed to interact with them?

 

To paraphrase a sentence often attributed to Voltaire: “Monsieur, je déteste ce que vous écrivez, mais je donnerai ma vie pour que vous puissiez continuer à écrire.” In case your French is rusty: I detest what you write, but I’d give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.

 

This is what sets us apart. (See what I did there?) We’re humans, one and all, not a mythic Übermensch. We have prejudices, small ones and big ones. If I met you in the street, there’s a pretty decent chance you’d probably consider me a weirdo long-haired satanist, some stupid goth-dude, a metalhead biker who didn’t finish high-school. The chance that you’d consider me to have more than 2 braincells isn’t too big. Similarly, I am not exempt from such stereotyping, try as I might; I may think of some folks as air-heads, as stuck-up snobs or worse. It’s just how we are wired, just the way we are, how our operation in society and our language, our whole conception of the world, works.

 

We are not yet beyond good and evil and there is a reason I am dreading the confirmation of the veracity of eternal recurrence. We are not yet bereft of prejudices, no matter how much grandstanding we engage in; and in fact, some of those standing up for the rights of the discriminated employ the very same strategies as their adversaries. We are not perfect. But what gives me hope is the ability to engage in dialogue; to discuss; to talk; to stand up for what we believe in. Censorship, traditional strategies of destabilizing media and the former monopoly of information all have been broken by the internet. While this has allowed all the putrid filth of extremists to spew forth unfiltered, it has also presented us with a colossal chance to engage in dialogue: Without talking, we fall prey to the same us vs. them dichotomy that allows authoritarianism to prosper.

 

We can literally talk to people across the globe with but a flick of our wrists, a few strokes on the keyboard. We can visit other countries and talk to the folks there in the blink of an eye – and it’s harder to hate those you can talk to, those you can see. For me, an important measure of a human being that tries to do the right thing is the willingness to engage others, the conscious effort to try to understand others and interact with them while trying to suspend one’s preconceived notions. At least, that’s what I try to do.

 

Which brings me full circle to the aspect of the representation of Nazis. You see, the horrible truth is that we fictionalize our history. History is, as a whole, one of the grand narratives of humanity, a conventionalized story we more or less have agreed upon. Now, I know some historians will leer at this sentence, but the matter of fact is that there is no possible, valid rebuttal for this notion – by definition, there cannot ever be a neutral form of history. However, this does not mean we have to consider everything as utter subjectivity; there are FACTS. Truth. Things that have happened that cannot be rationalized away and the outrageously inhumane crimes of the Nazis are such a fact; anyone who disputes this is engaging in a level of willful ignorance that borders on fantasy. Fantasy.

 

Well. That’s very much the issue for me. You see, I don’t necessarily mind the fictionalizing of terrible things; in fact, I do derive significant pleasure and consolation from many a form of media that depicts misery. There is consolation to be found in pit-gazing, and, from the realms of Silent Hill to indie-games like Downfall or The Cat Lady, the depiction of psychological trauma can provide understanding and solace. The issue for me is that the depictions of Nazis in media do not foster the like; they ultimately generate the lowest common denominator of villain we can all agree on hating. You can’t be apologetic for what they did without completely compromising your point of view and any form of debate; there’s a reason Godwin’s law exists.

 

Ultimately, Nazis are real-life supervillains in the way they’re used and visually coded. And I get why. We need such easily codified enemies, right? Here is my issue: This oversimplifies the problem and, in fact, employs the very same media representation strategies the Nazis used to ostracize their victims: We see subhuman, moral-less swine and know that it’s okay to hate them, that they deserve what’s coming. Never mind that the Antifa uses the same violent methods, the same stereotyping, the same forms of generating a hostile Other. They’re Nazis. We’re basically morally obliged to hate them. Because they’re Nazis. Because they have that label. The issue is that, by depicting Nazis like this, we, to a certain degree, use the very same methodology they did.

 

Sure, I can laugh about Nazi-zombies in Død Snø or about Iron Sky.

 

This does not change that, no matter how we deal with them in media, whether it’s movies or roleplaying games, we engage in a representation strategy that is too close for comfort for me. In our reductive capabilities, we may engage in harmless fantasies of revenge versus this blight upon human history. But the disturbing, underlying aspect remains; that we’re all closer to “The Man in the High Castle” than we think. Philip K. Dick’s novel is not my favorite from his oeuvre, but replace the Nazi imagery with the globally festering ignorance, the willful denial of scientific facts. Replace it with Huxley’s flood of information garbage predicted in Brave New World, in which the important bits are lost in a tide of stupidity. We have missed a 1984-ish dystopia, but we’ve been skirting the edge of a Brave New World for quite some time now. A pessimist might say we’re already there.

 

I don’t object to evil empires we can fight in our games; I don’t object to the use and reappropriation of fascist visuals and symbols; but I do object to real world groups being used as such. To me, as a person, that takes away the real horrific truth:

That evil is banal. Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil” was right in that claim – and yes, that evil may be gratuitous and cruel, but that does not change the banality of it, the fact that it doesn’t take much to make people commit horrible deeds and go above and beyond. Neither does it change that, by envisioning Nazis as this supervillain-force of supernatural/superscience evil, we’re missing the whole point.

 

The unparalleled crimes of the Nazi regime are indisputable and horrible; but not because they were committed by caricatures, devil-worshippers, zombies or Frankenstein-hybrids wizz en atroschus Tschörmen akzent. They are horrible because they are more real, more immediate, more contemporary than many of the blood-drenched atrocities our species has committed against itself over the course of its existence. They allow us a glimpse at the darkest, blackest, most vile abyss of what humanity is capable of in its worst moments and they show us how easily, how quickly “normal” people can be made into willing cogs of an engine of mass destruction.

 

The legacy we have, not only Germans like me, but all of humanity, is to never forget that for now at least, in Celan’s words “Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland” (Death is a master from Germany – the most famous line of his Todesfuge). But it is our duty as a species, as moral beings, to learn from the past. To ensure that history, for once, does not repeat itself.

 

This tremendous moral responsibility makes it very hard for me to appreciate the depiction of Nazis in a fictional context – to me, they are too REAL. They are the ultimate representation of the all that is vile about authoritarianism and the exploitation of the human, social desire to belong. To borrow Lacanian terms, we live in a Symbolic order of conventionalized meanings (tl;dr and horribly and inaccurately simplified, if you don’t want to read up on Lacan: Our sensory apparatus and languages shape our perception, we can’t perceive reality and exist in a world of symbols and conventions we create; beyond that lies the desert of the real. The first Matrix movie represents a semi-decent visual representation of the concept, if you take the AI aspect away and replace it with our own, imposed and conventionalized order) but the term “Nazi” represents such an absolute, incomprehensible vileness that it, by virtue of being quoted in fantastic texts, it is always diminished, reduced in its impact and, more importantly, the monumental gravity of its meaning. Sure, we use humor and satire to make fun of things we can’t process. Sure, grimdark games can actually provide solace and act as a catalyst, can make it easier for us to grapple with a level of evil or trauma so profound that it shakes us to the core.

 

When it comes to Nazis, discussing them in such a context, while preferable to not discussing them at all, also must come with the consciousness that it simplifies and fictionalizes them by virtue of the medium employed. This abstraction, this reduction, makes the issues that Nazis pose to us seem easier, solvable – detached, a part of the past. We all want to be Captain America or Superman, punching Hitler in the face. The good guys won, right? The frightening truth is, that, while I honestly believe us to be capable of being that guy, I also believe that we are very much capable of being indoctrinated into becoming a horrific servant of an empire of pure evil. By making nazis supervillains that are okay to hate, we’re missing how their horrid legacy remains alive to this day.

 

In violence, media manipulation, fear-mongering, spreading dissent. In how we’re used like fighting dogs, given a slap on the nose and thrown into a ring, mindlessly attacking one another instead of biting the hand that slapped us on the nose, in breaking the cycle of violence and hate. We should continue to discuss Nazis in every damn way we please; we should not censor ourselves. I sure as hell don’t judge anyone for liking games like “Achtung! Cthulhu” or the like (kudos btw. to that series of books; they are great if that’s what you’re looking for!) – these games do have a purpose and I can see why they’re this popular.

 

At the same time, these games simply do not work for me.

 

I see the reassembled and reconfigured components of ideology and methodology of the Nazis very much present when I turn on the news and follow global developments. There seem to be other scapegoats, other agendas, other symbols; they have a myriad faces and can be found in a myriad of places. I don’t think there’ll ever be a proper Nazi-regime ever again; we’re too smart as a species for that and our moral compasses, as a whole, should keep only a deranged and/or particularly angry or misinformed fringe from identifying with them.

 

But the abyssal evil, the sheer vastness of human potential for causing untold suffering that is so exemplified by all connotations of the “Nazi”-term…it lurks. It waits. It feasts on fear and prejudice and hate. Its methodology and the ever bountiful fruits of its labor can be seen daily. It is profoundly, disturbingly human and as such deliberately malignant and ignorant and thus, more horrible than the Great Old Ones (which renders aforementioned game an exercise in reductio ad absurdum for me); it makes the cosmic indifference of Cthulhu seem almost benign in comparison. In short: For me, such games either Godwin themselves or become too depressing and real to constitute what I’d consider a fun past time.

 

Perhaps it’s easier when your own nation was one of the “good guys” and thus received an amnesty for comparatively smaller genocides in the past. Perhaps I’ve studied the extent of the crimes of the Nazis too much. Perhaps that’s the German Guilt talking. I most certainly have no problem discussing the holocaust and the unspeakable crimes the Nazis committed. Even in games, I can and have managed to sufficiently distance myself from the subject matter to review them and play them as just that. I do not condemn games that features Nazis as foes. Games can convey knowledge. They can act as a starting point. They can educate the players in the methods employed by the regimes, in the extent of evil that we’re capable of committing, even without the convenient excuse of madness. These games have a raison d’être. But at one point, the knowledge one accumulates will invariably render the fun aspect of games featuring Nazis obsolete.

 

To me as a person, the fight against their body of thought is one fight that we don’t need to fictionalize, because we can all participate in it, every day. In every open palm we shake, in every measure of understanding towards other cultures, races, sexualities; in every effort to enlighten and foster cooperation. Whenever we do not give in to looking for scapegoats, whenever we do not give in to fear and suspicion, we can transcend, for a short while, the limitations of our prejudices and grow. And every time we do, the abyss, the darkness signified by the Nazi term, cringes. It’s hard. It’s unpleasant at times. It requires time and effort. It requires dialogue and not screaming for the state to censor or ban. It’s worth it.

 

So, dear readers – continue playing those games. Spread knowledge. Talk to each other, respectfully and compassionate. We’re all fighting for the collective soul of humanity each and every day.

 

Here’s the one truth that no divisive ideology ever wants to acknowledge: There’s no “them” – there’s just an “us”, hurtling through a cold and uncaring universe on a pile of rocks. The true measure of our being, of whether we, as a species, are enlightened beings or just self-destructive, rabid animals, remains to be determined. I choose to believe that we can transcend our limitations. I believe that we’re capable of winning a fight that is not fought with fists or weapons, but within our minds and those of our fellow humans – every day, in every single one of us and in every representation that exists of us. This may be the ultimate game we’re playing as homo ludens, the game to encompass all others, and if a game, an act, a text can tip the balance, even in the slightest in the favor of a more benign world, it is one worth existing.

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

 

Comments

  7 Responses to “Miscellaneous Musings: My Stance on the Depiction of Nazis in Gaming”

  1. +1

    (Read your post all the way through)

    The frightening thing about the horrors of the holocaust against the Jews is that it was perpetrated by people just like us against people who were just like us.

    I, too, have read Hannah Arendt’s book, btw.

    Great post. One day we must meet up face to face.

    Richard

    • Dear Richard!

      First of all: Thank you for reading my long and undoubtedly tiresome tirade. I’m glad you found some of my statements worthwhile.

      And honestly, I’m not surprised you’re familiar with Arendt’s book!

      Oh, and let me echo the sentiment – it would be an absolute honor to meet you in person and talk the days away. I”m pretty positive there’d be a ton of things to discuss!

  2. Thilo,

    That was an amazingly insightful and well written piece, I dare say calling that a musing does not do it justice. Just going to go ahead and say thank you for sharing that, I will most certainly be steering others to read it, as I feel that piece deserves as many pairs of eyes as can be found.

    Jeff

    • Jeff,

      thank you so much for your kind words. I am exceedingly happy that you enjoyed my…article? Essay? Whatever you’d like to call it. I most certainly appreciate you showing this to others, as it represents something near and dear to my heart, particularly in these times of fear and dissent.

      Thank you. Seriously. I’m not particularly confident when it comes to writing such pieces and seeing them being appreciated is heart-warming.

      Thilo

  3. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater! Life is circular. Walk too far to the west and you find yourself in the east. A sobering post, my friend. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    I hope that German individualism can be fostered, that national identity and pride are allowed to shine without the shadows of totalitarianism darkening our lands, and that people can forgive themselves without forgetting the mistakes we’ve made.

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