The Nazi’s were bad blokes yeah? Well they still are, kicking about for some reason. Anyway this isn’t about modern day Neo-Nazis with tattoos of swastikas, bald heads and wife-beater vests. This is about Nazi’s in video-games, everybody loves shooting Nazi’s right? It’s fun to shoot fascism in its dumb, bigoted face in style. So why are they depicted with such difference? And stick around for a surprise at the end. Or don’t, I’m not your dad.
Call of Duty has been synonymous with the Second World War for a very long time, recently even taking a step back from wall running and future warfare that all began with Kevin Spacey (good job they’ve distanced themselves from that). Whilst they weren’t the first to do this they made it standard in the first person shooter genre. However for this series its been more about the war itself, never the Nazis as bad lads. Until now! A scene was edited from CoD: WWII where a Nazi is heavily suggested to be raping a women, and I understand why this is, I mean never mind he’s a Nazi but that just seems a bit far. We get it, they’re bad. Call of Duty never did anything ‘interesting’ with Nazi’s, and whilst they are rightly controversial in a major part of history this also means they have played a role in pop culture as well.
Now do you want to play a game where you can shoot Hitler in the face? Then look no further than Wolfenstein, beginning with 1981’s Castle Wolfenstein. From the get go this series was controversial, struggling to get a producer to take it off the ground for obious reasons. But I think this series help normalise the idea that Nazi’s were a thing, and could be approached in more ways than documentaries and war movies. Then look at this years Wolfenstein: The New Colossus where the Nazi’s have taken over America, won the War, have giant Robot dogs and Hitler is still kicking about and directly shown. This 36 year jump tells us one thing… Wolfenstein still doesn’t give two shits about how they depict Nazi’s. They have legitimately led the way in Nazi’s in the media, just look at Inglorious Bastards ultra-violent depiction of them (and Hitler getting his head shot to bits) or The Man in the High Castle, where again the Nazi’s won the war. This series changed the way our generation looks at the Nazi’s, they are no longer some ultra-serious enemy of civilisation, but a part of sci-fi and popular culture.
So how does this relate to them in video games? Well I feel we can do something with that, it has been done before, but with they way they are seen now it would make their depiction interesting… let’s play as the Nazi’s. Not in a multiplayer mode, but a full on game. Star Wars Battlefront II is letting you play as the Empire and we have no idea how that’ll turn out, so why can’t we play as some ‘real villains’. I’m not saying they should be immortalised, glorified or even destroyed. But it would act as an interesting depiction of them. Allow people to understand the reality of war in that not everyone is some super villain, most are just regular dudes. Even then questioning Nazi decisions, ideology and culture could be approach in a very hands on way not by the player character, but the player themselves. I don’t want a repeat of the MW2 scene in the airport. But how about depicting something that actually happened, and your’e a foot-soldier?
Then again all of this is an idea. You don’t have to agree with me or even see my point. It just seems worth noting on how Nazi depiction has changed, and where it could go.