Are We Shooting Too Many Digital Nazis? The Corrosion of History through Over-Usage.

Nazis are not nice; this is not a fact that needs reinforcing, and, as such, it's easy, and generally correct, to view Nazis as one of the trademark 'bad guys' of the world. Therefore, it's no surprise that most people actively want to do Nazis harm and for over two decades now they have been used as the generic evil enemies of the computer game world.

The Nazis of computer gaming are often either an extreme version of members of the German National Socialist party from the mid-thirties, or 'to kill en-mass' military opponents in WW2-shooters.

These games have provided the means by which we can kill Nazi's in an ever increasing variety of ways. Be it realistically with period weapons in the Medal of Honour series or by electrocuting mutated, large-breasted, spandex-clad Nazi gymnasts on laser-weapon firing zeppelins in Wolfenstein. Either way, gunning down the digital ghosts of Germany's past by the google has become a national pastime.

There are many understandable reasons why this trend has developed. After all if we're going to go on killing a group of actual digital people, they might as well be National Socialists. The SS in particular do wear skulls on their caps, so they make terrific villains. There's not a lot of room for ideological ambiguity with Nazis, so it's easy for players to settle into a clear black and white view of morality whilst massacring them. They're evil, and players get that. In addition, the soldiers of the German army were well trained, well equipped and highly motivated, so they present a compelling challenge, whether in shooter, strategy or simulation settings. Whether you're dog fighting with them above the English Channel during the Blitz, repelling them in Stalingrad, or outmaneuvering Rommel at El Alamein, Nazis always make good opponents.

However, is it about time that game companies moved on from inventing over-predictable subgenres of alternate history, in which Nazis are exterminated in an ever increasingly elaborate way? Are we in danger of overexposing one aspect (by no means un-important) of twentieth century history and encouraging younger generations to think less favorably of modern Germany? After all German game designers don't produce endless English Civil War games  . . . do they?

It might also be argued that such games dilute the potential for school children to take this history seriously. The Holocaust was one of the most significant historical events of the twentieth century. It is why the nations of the world, not only Germany, ratified the United Nations Convention to prevent and punish the crime of genocide and why the United Nations looked forward to the day the International Criminal Court would be established. Are younger generations running the risk of forgetting how much of our legislation that protects today's fair and equal societies was borne out of this history, because they're too busy thwarting Himmler's genetic experiments to create invisible SS Storm troopers that shoot green particle beams from their mouths?

This can be traced to a wider issue of the proliferation of World War 2 in general as a source of entertainment. Consequently, a large majority of games involving conflict and soldiering are centered around the Second World War, particularly if there are other movies and television shows currently set in the period. The danger of trivializing the actual event in the minds of younger generations seems far more prominent as titles about this period flood the gaming market.

This isn’t to say there haven’t been any non-WWII period games. Ubisoft’s critically acclaimed  Assassin’s Creed series served up a brief sampling of 4 specific periods, with the first set in The Holy Land during the Third Crusade. So why not build upon that success? Imagine a series of games set during The Renaissance, what better era for a "rebirth" in video games than to cover the historical period of the same name. Why stop there, how about Ancient Egypt, gladiators of the Roman Empire, Alexander the Great and Ancient Greece, the period of 'King Arthur', the first Olympics, Ancient China’s creation of gunpowder, the westernization of Japan, the French Revolution!

Some food for thought. Of course, until I find a game that fulfills all my desires to play out the Viking invasions of Britain or toppling French aristocrats with gleeful cries of 'Liberty! Fraternity!', I will continue firing at ever increasingly ludicrous super-powered Nazis with incongruous period weaponry. And I'll probably like it.