The depiction of Nazis in games tends to downplay their atrocities and facilitate the normalization of fascist aesthetics and ideologies. Even in a playful and lighthearted context, this normalization has consequences that can and should be avoided by everyone in gaming communities – including developers, content creators, and players.
World War II might be just one of many historical settings in games, but the representation of Nazis makes it a particularly tricky one. Especially if developers are trying to sell an entertainment product and provide players with all the freedom they might wish for, they frequently decide not to depict the Holocaust, for example. Such a decision, however, contributes to an embellished picture of Nazi Germany, which is then offered to players – some of which are apparently craving Nazi content. Their ideology, weaponry, and aesthetics seem to appeal to certain players in a peculiar way, as can be seen in user-created content, profiles, and discussions.
No matter what the intention behind such behavior is, the abundance of Nazi representations in gaming communities has harmful consequences. By keeping the line between role-play and actual propagation of fascist ideologies blurry, gaming communities make themselves a rather uncomfortable place for all but the most privileged of players, while at the same time offering an excellent playground for actual fascists. Players, moderators, and developers regularly face backlash when advocating for more inclusive communities – at least whenever making a positive change would require dropping supposedly “edgy” behavior or content in an environment that has long been used to it.
Tackling these issues demands more awareness and responsibility from all involved parties, from the players to the developers and their marketing divisions. Luckily, we could recently witness various good practice examples of ways to oppose fascism in gaming. Such examples are still rare, they require effort and dedication, but they harbor promise of a better future for gaming – for everyone except literal Nazis.