As a person who once thoroughly enjoyed his share of video games, I am dismayed at the recent developments regarding the Call of Duty:WW2 video game.
To those who didn’t know, Call of Duty: WW2, a game in the well-known Call of Duty franchise, was released earlier this month. When reading a review about the game, I learned that Sledgehammer, the leading developer of WW2, made interesting choices about the use of Nazi symbolism in the game.
Essentially, Sledgehammer decided not to include swastikas or Nazi flags in the multiplayer mode of the game. All swastikas were replaced with the traditional German Empire iron cross. The swastikas were kept in the single-player campaign due to the historical story that Sledgehammer wanted to tell, but for the multiplayer mode, they decided to remove them.
On the swastika removal issue, Sledgehammer co-founder Michael Condrey explained, “In our global community of multiplayer and zombies players, we’ve chosen deliberately not to include [the swastika]. We want the community to play together. We want to be respectful of local customs and laws around the world. And frankly it’s a dark symbol with a lot of emotion behind it we don’t feel matches our multiplayer experience.”
The removal of the swastikas wasn’t the only source of controversy with the game. Players soon found out that in the multiplayer mode, you would be allowed to play as a black Nazi soldier, and even a female Nazi soldier. Despite being very historically inaccurate, Sledgehammer defended its decision by claiming that the game should be as inclusive as the audience who plays it.
While I praise Sledgehammer’s initiative to create a more enjoyable, inclusive and diverse game, I do not agree with its choices.
First, the Call of Duty:WW2 is a game that is historically based. It is about WWII and reveals horrors of war. I think people who play the game should receive historically accurate depictions of World War II.
Second, I understand the horrors associated with the Nazi flag. With the recent controversy concerning the Confederate flag and monuments, I understand Sledgehammer’s worry about including the Nazi flag in the multiplayer aspect of the game. However, we are talking about a video game entered around WWII, and I don’t agree with its choice to exclude it. We are not talking about having the Nazi flag displayed on a monument for the public to see. Sledgehammer’s decision would be akin to making a historical documentary about the Civil War and removing any reference or picture of the Confederate flag. Consumers are not likely to be sensitive about the Nazi flag in a video game about WWII. They are aware that it was part of a very dark history and would not be offended by its portrayal in a war game.
I know you are thinking that this is just a video game. But, I feel that this is an example of political correctness over historical accuracy. Political correctness should not come at the expense of historical accuracy. And this effort by Sledgehammer not to offend anyone clearly comes at a cost of accuracy.
Also, when Condrey stated, “we want the community to play together” and that the Nazi flag doesn’t represent what the multiplayer experience should be, then why create a game mode in which players can play as Nazis? Isn’t the option to play as a Nazi just as bad, if not worse than just displaying the flag? The point is, while the Nazi flag is a symbol of evil, it is still a part of history.
And as for the multi-racial character you can choose to be, once again I think Sledgehammer fell short. Call of Duty game definitely has a wide variety of races and genders playing, but once again, these gamers are aware of the time period of the game. They understand that being a black Nazi soldier would be historically inaccurate, which is why you cannot play as one.
My opinion is simple: you should always try to advance society and promote diversity and inclusiveness, but with a clear and accurate knowledge of history. It’s important that we know our history, the good and the bad, so that we can learn from it. We cannot change history, but we can use it to change the future.