Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
 
Vergangenheitsbewältigung

Sorry for the long German word in the title, but it wouldn't have been the same if I had translated it. The literal translation is "coming to terms with the past", but in German the word is most often used in relation to the Nazi past of Germany. Via Brokentoys I've stumbled upon the story of the rabbi killing Nazis in Call of Duty 5, and saying that virtually burning down the Reichstag helped him psychologically with that past. Which personally, as a German, I find an excellent way of Vergangenheitsbewältigung. At least it makes more sense than blaming Germans born after 1945 for the sins of their ancestors.

I am just wondering how the same rabbi would feel about the hypothetical game Call of Duty: Intifada, in which you play a Palaestinian in the uprising shooting Israeli soldiers. Call of Duty 4 has American soldiers shooting Arabs in a fictional Middle East country, how would people feel about a game in which the Arabs shoot the Americans? Maybe this sort of coming to terms with the past is best reserved for conflicts from more than one generation ago.
Comments:
Couldn't stop smiling reading this :).
But a lot of people will actually think that it makes a difference who you kill. Just like somebody who gives his life for a cause is generally called a coward in even serious media, if it is the (obviously) wrong cause.. but a national hero if it is the right one.
After several years of experiencing this kind of stuff you really are forced to smile whenever you encounter it.
 
The darker counterpart of that phenomenon is Ilsa, She-wolf of the SS and a whole genre known as Stalag Fiction.
 
There is something particularly cool about killing Nazis. Maybe it's the uniforms? I dunno.
 
I think it is the Übermensch-idea.
It's fun to punish(=kill in these games) somebody who thinks that he is superior, but it clearly not. It's probably a good and practical idea to treat Nazis not as humans, but as funny stuff you can kill. Even if it is not a moral high ground, it's better than treating people and organizations that way that still exist.
 
Am I the only one that thinks this guy is lame?
Isn't that insulting for the Jewish people who did survived the WW2 and that just HAD to pick up what was left and start over again?
How could they have made it without CoD to allow them to "come to terms".
Kinda reminds me of an episode of Rescue Me, where a fireman goes to a 9-11 support group for people traumatized by the experience and he finds out nobody in that group was in New York or even had family amongst the victims.
 
History paints the Nazis as the bad guys and with very few exceptions you won't find anyone in the world that disagrees. Even my two years I spent in Germany several years ago, I never once found a German that admitted they were ever part of the Nazi regime or supported it. I have to believe that many did, if for no other reason than out of fear.

Never understood the compulsion to blame people for their ancestors misdeeds, whether it's Nazis or the Arab-Israeli conflict that's gone on for generations.
 
@ Casualhardcore:
At least 50 years have passes by now. To actually be responsible you needed to be at least 30 at the time of the war. That makes you 85. How many people did you meet here in Germany that were 85 or older ? :)

My grandpa fought in the war. He is born in 1912. He went to Siberia, escaped twice, still has a bullet in his head and is one of the most loving and full-of-life persons I know. But he rarely talks about racism - and that's probably for the better.

For any US citizen who wants to understand this I can only recommend your own president:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrp-v2tHaDo
 
I wonder if the Jewish guy finds himself setting the game to the easiest mode because when the Nazis kill him on hard, it makes him want to take Prosac :P
 
In so far as games are an art form, they ought to engage with culturally sensitive topics; and those include war, particularly contemporary ones. Call of Duty 4 has Western forces (British and American special forces) as the protagonists fighting, among others, Middle Eastern antagonists. Yet, it is not simply an affirmation of the current political climate from the Western perspective. Periods in the game like the oft-cited "C130 sequence" are off putting for a lot of players because it forces the player to confront a very harsh reality of the current conflict. How far can a mainstream game push this? I would like to see a shooter set in the modern context have the player shooting at insurgents perched among civilians. I would want the player to confront a situation at a check point where the decision to shoot the passengers in an approaching car is not clear, and where "following orders" has serious moral repercussions. Imagine that the game generates the encounter randomly. Sometimes a car tries to get around the checkpoint and most of the time the passengers are "the enemy," people that are explicitly out to kill you. Every now and then however, the situation turns out tragically; you end up shooting a family and a further mission then requires you to confront the surviving relatives and atone for your mistake before local tribe elders.

Even if I don't think any large triple-A game will have us playing a Palestinian or Middle Eastern protagonist in any one of the contemporary, real world conflicts, I would like to be confronted with a more honest representation of these realities. In so far as those accounts are disturbing, those games will have earned some credibility to the claim of art.
 
In the Western world, a game where you have to kill Europeans/Americans would probably not sell a single copy, just for the fact it would not hit any store shelf.
 
So suddenly Nazis are not European anymore ? ;) :)
 
"In the Western world, a game where you have to kill Europeans/Americans would probably not sell a single copy, just for the fact it would not hit any store shelf."

Counterstrike
 
The problem with that hypothetical is that the Palestinians are the evil ones, just like the Nazis (they have the exact same murder-every-Jew goal, of course) except for being more incompetent about it. So just as a game where you play Nazis killing Americans (or Jews) would be gross, your hypothetical is gross.
 
Thought we are about to overcome this good/evil stuff and start to enter the grey tones. Seems I have been wrong ;)
 
"In the Western world, a game where you have to kill Europeans/Americans would probably not sell a single copy, just for the fact it would not hit any store shelf."

Counterstrike.... and GTA, and 90% of action games, and yeah, most games really.

Say what you will about white racism, we don't have a problem blasting other virtual crackers.
 
Just to play devil's advocate, it's kind of like apartheid was "bad" in South Africa, but it's fine in the West Bank? And it's OK to play an Arab as long as you're Disney's Aladdin? just sayin...
 
Israel =/= South Africa. Building walls to keep out murderers =/= oppressing innocent blacks. So there's no playing Devil's advocate here, just playing dumb.
 
Oh boy, politics. Always fun.

I do agree with the original post on "only for wars more than a generation ago", since people will have moved on, relations between groups will have changed, and some of the strong feelings may have died down.
 
Brent, I know I shouldn't be baited by your rubbish, but you can't condemn a whole nation as murderers.
 
Sounds like everyone is joining Tobold on that slippery slope towards the assumed reality that games can affect the way we think about other races or cultures. If that's the case, then why is it such a stretch to think that games can affect people in other ways? Could a developer have alterior motives for developing such games in a way as to affirm a certain political ideology? Or, should the blogosphere be content to accept that these are just games and nothing more?
 
Could a developer have alterior motives for developing such games in a way as to affirm a certain political ideology?
Of course they could. Unfortunately, many political games end up being too preachy and thus end up having the opposite effect.

Or, should the blogosphere be content to accept that these are just games and nothing more?
One should be careful with generalizations. Some of the causes of controversy in the past (like Wolfenstein 3D and Doom) were indeed just games, and at most supported the opposite view: Shooting demons is not satanic worship. But the games as a medium are maturing and can be used to tell stories, even political ones. Just look at Bioshock, for example.
 
@ Nils - I lived in Germany from '94 to '96. Lots of 70 somethings around at that time who still remembered. I remember one old lady that used to cry as she told stories of having to cheer the Nazi regime on during parades. She said she did it out of fear. I had no reason not to believe her. And as for how many old people did I meet? Well I was living there performing church service, so I met a lot. :)
 
If it were the 6 days war or some other war from the past it would relate. But CoD4 is not in the "past" at all, it's present day. So.. yeah it might hold some catharsic value for palenstinian kids.

Then again a game that showed multiple sides and tried to do justice to each side would be more interesting, of course I don't think that's actually possible unless you have completely different teams of writers, since IMO esp with hot button issues it's pretty impossible for people to write for the other side without inserting their opinion.

Remember The Witcher? It supposedly had choices where either one was bad. But the way they wrote it, the human faction (translated into english as "racists") were not sympathetic at all. There was no explanation or fear, just hate. So it was easy to side with the elves. Then the elves killed a drug dealer, and that it supposed to make me think "oh I shouldn't have helped them they are not good either?" hardly. I am for decriminilaization, but I don't feel bad when organized crime members that prey on society kill each other either. Basicaly the writers could not keep their opinions out of it even when trying to write for the human's side, and just made them appear bad every time.
 
"Sounds like everyone is joining Tobold on that slippery slope towards the assumed reality that games can affect the way we think about other races or cultures"

What slippery slope? Games are our oldest form of teaching. We used games to teach people before we had schools, before we used stories. Even animals teach each other through games. Esp. games that involve others people. Often when we think a game is dumb or has no value it's because we've already learned everything.

There is nothing wrong with saying games can teach you new things. It's like saying "there is a slippery slope that school can affect the way we think about other races" obviously that would be silly. But it's just as silly to say that about games.

Of course games teach us.
 
What slippery slope? Games are our oldest form of teaching.

Precisely. But who gets to determine what games can teach, and what they cannot? On one side of the fence you have developers and industry pundits who vehemently deny that games have the ability to physchologically influence kids, young adults or what have you. On the other side of the fence you have people who treat games just like any other form of popular media such as movies, advertising...ect, who think that games can very well influence people...to do very nasty or immoral things.

The US Army has spent millions already on its "Americas Army" franchise, and just recently threw another 50 million into the development pot. Recruiting tool? Definately. Winning the hearts and minds of our youth for the US Army? Definately. Murder simulator? Debateable.

http://games.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/11/24/0827201

The army seems to know(and openly practice) what others openly deny in this politically correct climate we live in. As Shalkis pointed out above, killing demons doesnt make you a satan worshipper, but change the avatar, the background story, the reasons to "win" at all costs and you can have a very influential cultural tool that can shape the hearts and minds of its intended audience. Right?

Makes one wonder how America's Army garnered only an ESRB Rating of: T(Teen) for Realistic Blood, Realistic Violence. Go figure.
 
On one side of the fence you have developers and industry pundits who vehemently deny that games have the ability to physchologically influence kids, young adults or what have you. On the other side of the fence you have people who treat games just like any other form of popular media such as movies, advertising...ect, who think that games can very well influence people...to do very nasty or immoral things.
That's a rather interesting variation of the Golden Mean Fallacy you got there. You have conveniently forgotten the other side of the spectrum, the possibility of games having a positive influence on people. You know, the thing that got this discussion started.

Makes one wonder how America's Army garnered only an ESRB Rating of: T(Teen) for Realistic Blood, Realistic Violence. Go figure.
Because ending life is less obscene than creating it?-)
 
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