Sunday, 22 June 2014

Mentioning the War

(Note: this is my first time writing an article like this, so apologies if it’s not quite up to snuff).

World War II is a conflict that has been thoroughly explored from a thousand and one angles: from countless retellings of the Normandy landings in Medal of Honor and Call of Duty, the Pacific theatre in Medal of Honor Rising Sun, North Africa with the Big Red One, to the skies over Europe in IL-2 Sturmovik, to sniping V2 scientists in bombed out Berlin with Sniper Elite V2, to the bloody battlefields of the Eastern Front in Company of Heroes 2.

Quite recently we had the release of the excellent alternative war in Wolfenstein: The New Order and the rarely seen Warsaw Uprising in the recent Enemy Front. Yes, the Second World War is a war that we've seen from all angles… except for one that is. The perspective of what has become the quintessential bad guy for the past 65 years. What I’m asking is why have we never played as a German?

Now this isn't to say it’s never happened; Company of Heroes had the excellent expansion pack Opposing Fronts where you played as an Axis commander, but an RTS is an impersonal experience after all if you squint hard enough your units all start to look the same. I don't want to play as some faceless Kommandant sending my equally faceless Wehrmacht to face the Sherman tanks; I want to be that poor Jerry. Now I'm not saying I want some horrible murder the civilian simulator or Concentration Camp Tycoon, no. It’s been 65 years now; we've had countless movies, TV shows and books about those poor sods sent to their deaths against the combined Allied forces, surely we can finally apply the old saying all Nazis are German but not all Germans are Nazis to videogames?

In fact that could play into, being a young idyllic German boy, joining the army after the reclamation of the Rhine Land, setting the early missions or the tutorial during the French campaign and during occupation you stop an act of violence against the local populace and for your insubordination you get sent to the Eastern Front. From there you can slowly become disillusioned with the Nazi state, witnessing first hand the atrocities that occurred across Eastern Europe; be beaten back from Stalingrad to the hopes of the Panzers at Kursk, only to face defeat again. As your friends and comrades numbers continue to dwindle you come to the end of you tether when your unit stops to evacuate troops from one of the death camps, upon seeing the horrors you snap and begin to fire on your comrades, only to be gunned down when you realise due to a lack of supplies you only have a quarter of a magazine in your MP40. If done well this game could be the Spec Ops: The Line of World War II games, a dark introspective into the faceless enemies we've been gleefully gunning down since the days we first left our cell in Castle Wolfenstein all those years ago.

But this is merely an opinion and chances are any game we get that features a German player character will be made by one of those awful Right Wing games that are about as competently designed as the opinion of the people that made them. I always recall the saying that games are yet to get their Citizen Kane (even though we have and it’s called Deus Ex) I, personally, am looking forward to our Letters from Iwo Jima or our Das Boot, but until that day I’ll continue to enjoy my guilt free slaughter as I would with Zombies or Zubats.

Alex Chhaya

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