A German Video Game, Using Swastikas to Remember Nazi Terror


BERLIN — It’s a darkish and wet night time in February 1933. Riding your bike via a abandoned Berlin, you see an outdated man being attacked by three males in uniform. The swastikas on the attackers’ armbands are giant and encased in pink.

You should resolve whether or not to step in and save the person, or cycle on and maintain out of bother.

That’s the form of ethical alternative gamers face in Through the Darkest of Times, a brand new online game designed to simulate life and resistance in World War II-era Berlin, and the primary current online game to be licensed in Germany that features swastikas and different Nazi symbols.

Those symbols — together with the SS insignia, the likeness of Hitler and the straight-arm salute — are typically banned beneath Germany’s structure. Until not too long ago, that meant video video games that confirmed them wouldn’t obtain approval from German’s online game licensing board, the USK.

That position was adopted by the USK in 2018 when it approved Through the Darkest of Times, which was released this year, despite the use of Nazi symbols.

The decision immediately prompted questions about exploitation. When an early version of the game was exhibited in 2018, Franziska Giffey, Germany’s family minister, told reporters, “You don’t play with swastikas.”

“Especially in Germany, we must always be aware of our special historical responsibility,” she said.

The game’s creators, Jörg Friedrich and Sebastian St. Schulz, said they were motivated by a concern that Germans — and other Europeans — were overlooking the dangers of populism. They said the game was intended to educate players about the horrors of the Nazi era.

The programmers said they saw Nazi iconography as important to telling the full story of the Nazi era.

In the past, makers of American video games such as Call of Duty and Wolfenstein have created versions of their blockbuster hits without Nazi symbols for the German market.

But that option was rejected by the makers of Through the Darkest Times. “We were either going to use the swastika, or nothing at all. We were definitely not going to invent some symbol as a substitute,” Mr. Friedrich said.

Through the Darkest of Times uses a palette of mostly black, white and red, and features a period soundtrack to transport players to the 1930s, when, after the Nazis gained a foothold in Parliament, Germany quickly moved from a shaky democracy to a regime of atrocious racial violence.

Although the game is far from a blockbuster (there are about 8,000 registered users on Steam, one of two platforms where Mac and PC users can play the game), Through the Darkest of Times has found use as a teaching tool in schools and colleges across Germany. One class at Pellenz, a high school in the west of the country, played the game as part of their advanced history studies.

Klara Schumacher, 19, a student at the school, said, “The Reichstag fire — I found it really moving that you had the opportunity to be there.”

According to another student, Christina Degen, 20, the game differs from many others because it does not just reward heroic behavior, but rather shows how difficult heroism could be under an authoritarian government.

“I remember thinking in seventh grade,” she said, when first learning about the Third Reich, “‘What cowards, why didn’t people all help?’”

But, she added, “Now that I’ve thought it over — and also played the game — I can see their perspective better.”

Daniel Bernsen, 44, who teaches the class, said he thought the game presented a valuable new avenue for understanding the past.

“It’s a medium that could do much more when it comes to history and the culture of remembrance,” Mr. Bernsen said.



Source link Nytimes.com

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