When one thinks of evil incarnate, of a repressive and monstrous and violent regime, the mind immediately runs to Nazi Germany, ie the “evil” in the collective imagination of western society
Films and novels drew heavily from this simple rhetoric Nazi = monster ; video games have followed this groove in great style, proposing often and willingly thousands of soldiers of the Third Reich to slaughter without mercy.
Until today, nobody has complained about this simple axiom, however in the last few weeks a controversy has arisen around the two titles: Wolfenstein 2 The New Colossus and Call of Duty: WW2 . The reason? According to far-right circles, these videogames convey a distorted idea of the National Socialist ideal
Do videogames therefore have to change the approach to the subject “Nazism”? As a historian and video game enthusiast, I give you my personal opinion.
THE CULTURAL LEAVE
Any event, leader and political ideology, with the passage of time, leaves behind a memory based on elements not always directly historical, but the result of the common opinion of posterity . What cultural legacy has German Nazism handed down? The horror of the holocaust and the devastation of the Second World War
These two terrible historical and collective traumas have indissolubly forged the approach of Western civilization towards Hitler and his followers, favoring the emergence of the axiom that we have quoted a few lines up: “Nazi = monster”
Video games, in particular the saga of Wolfenstein, pushes this equation to the extreme, bringing to the nth degree the Nazi madness (think of the character of Deadshead or Frau Engel), pushing the player to want to mow the highest possible number of dirty Nazis – now not even fully human -, without hesitation of any kind
Does the recipe work? Absolutely yes , especially in the case of Wolfenstein where everything is inserted in an almost cinematographic plot, cured and spectacular
THE DELICATE THEME OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR
If Wolfenstein 2, like the previous chapters, treated Nazism almost grotesque and ucronica , Call of Duty: WW2 tries to approach the Second World War as realistically as possible, highlighting the psychological impact that the war had on thousands of young people . Of course, the young people in question are non-German or Italian Americans, those are the “villains” of history, the Axis of totalitarian regimes.
Of course, not all soldiers from Germany or Italy were fanatics: some were just patriots as much as enemies could be, others were just as frightened as those who fought on the other side, others found themselves thrown into a terrifying reality without being able to oppose the least resistance.
A question may arise spontaneously: why not give space also to the prospect of a German soldier in a game on the Second World War as the last Call of Duty?
In this case two factors come into play: the controversy and a set of issues that we could summarize in “the winners write the story” .
Imagine the echo in the media of a video game in which you personify yourself – excuse the pun – a soldier of the Third Reich, I stress soldier and not SS, who fights against the Americans and the English in defense of the Nazi occupation of the 'Europe (perhaps the controversy would be less if everything were on the Russian front).
Regarding the factor “history the winners write it”, the videogame industry simply reflects the most common version of World War II , the version that does not dig deep: the Allies were good and the Nazis were evil. Speech closed.
THE DOUBLE SOUL
After having briefly explained the cultural approach to the delicate themes of Nazism and World War II, it is time to pull the strings completely
What does the historian say? The historian knows very well that reducing Nazism to mere madness and monstrosity is a grave error : Hitler's rise to power was propitiated by political, economic, social, philosophical and even scientific factors .
All this cannot be labeled as pure madness, but here the gamer enters the picture.
What does the gamer say? The gamer knows that the video game is not the right place to deal with such complex and multifaceted themes in detail ; you can offer food for thought, but everything must stop there.
The videogame , above all the genre of disappearance, remains, primarily , a means of entertaining , not to instruct. Playing can undoubtedly whet the curiosity, prompting you to look for more information on a particular topic.
This, in my opinion, must be the goal for a video game in historical salsa: to intrigue, especially the very young, and to make it clear that History is always alive.
The case we have examined must not be an exception.
Regarding the polemics of the neo-Nazis, perhaps they should be the first to come to terms with the legacy of the Hitler regime, without hiding behind useless curtains of slogans praising freedom of expression
What do you think of the theme Videogames and Nazism? How do you evaluate the controversies that accompany these topics