International Holocaust Remembrance Day… and games.

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. As a Jewish person, I’m automatically attached to this and affected by it, directly and indirectly. Antisemites like to use this day to prove that the holocaust didn’t happen and that “even if it did,” it really wasn’t as bad as all “you Jews” make it out to be and we should get over it because it happened 72 years ago. It doesn’t matter how bad or not bad a piece of history is, how long ago it happened, or that holocaust survivors are still alive today; it’s still history, and history should always be acknowledged and taught at every opportunity.

One thing that bothers me (probably a lot more than it should) is that many FPS games that take place during World War II ignore the holocaust (yeah, I know, Wolfenstien and Call of Duty: World War II are our token “but they don’t ignore it!” games). Do ya’ll know what WW2 in Europe was even about??? Germany invaded Poland (1939), and to Hitler, the conquest of Poland would bring Lebensraum, or “living space,” for the German people, and the “racially superior” Germans would colonize the area. About 10% (approximately 3 million people) of Poland’s population was Jewish at this time. This seems like a small number of Jews, however, the Polish Jewish community was the largest in all of Europe. So of course, Hitler would start there. These games wave nazi regalia all around, but why do so if the developers aren’t going to include one of the major identity groups they’re persecuting? Players need a motive other than “we all know nazis are bad so kill ’em.”

Let me use some comparisons to explain why this is a big deal. What if a game’s plot involved women’s voting rights and only included one or two women, neither of whom where the PC? A game that takes place during the Civil War and has no black people, or every single black person the PC (a white person) encounters is a slave? What about a game plot involving mental health, and the PC is perfectly, mentally well? How about a game in which elves are being enslaved and killed, but the PC is a human who’s just a big ol’ friendly savior and totally understands what the elves are going through because how can one not feel sympathy for them?

Those are incredible mistakes right? Put the player in the position of the oppressed, have their character be the oppressed. Educate them on what it was like to be a Jew from 1933-1945. If you aren’t Jewish, all you have to do is ask us to let you know when you get it right.

Never Again.

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