There you are, playing the PvP in your World War II shooter, and all of the sudden, you’re a Nazi. You didn’t ask for this. You didn’t choose this. Yet, there it is, and it’s treated no differently than playing a British soldier. This is bad on so many levels. No one should ever have a random chance of fighting for the Nazis, and we should never express that there’s no meaningful difference between Nazis and Allied soldiers, or that they’re functionally interchangeable. And before anyone equivocates and says not all “German soldiers in WWII were Nazis,” if they were wearing the swastika, and are functioning as an arm of the Nazi government, then unless the game goes out of its way to tell you specifically, that your particular character is not a Nazi? Then they’re a Nazi. In that multiplayer shooter, when it switched you to the German side, did it go out of its way to tell you that the person you’re playing was pressed into service under threat of their life? Yeah, that’s a big old “Nope.” Oh, and on a similar note, let’s please stop forcing people to play as terrorists, as well. There you are, playing your modern shooter, and all of a sudden you’re a terrorist. You didn’t ask for this. You didn’t choose this. And yet, second verse same as the first, there it is. I mean that’s literally the name of your side in the game. We can do better than this. Even if you put aside all of the people who have had traumatic experiences with these groups, who have lost loved ones to terrorists, or who have had generations of their families wiped out by Nazis, no one should have to put on the costume of an ideology they find abhorrent, without actually opting into it in your game. And by making people do so, we get them to stop thinking about it, to stop thinking of the meaning behind these things. We normalize them. We make them just window dressing for entertainment. Those uniforms, those symbols, become things that no longer inherently revolt us. They reduce our visceral reaction to seeing the embodiment of these ideologies. Now, does this make us totally ignore the history that comes with them? No, but for some people it moves them from the territory of “revolting” to just “edgy.” It makes scrawling a swastika on something, changed from “unthinkable” to just “dangerous.” It means you might not take iron crosses all over a website as a warning sign that you should immediately leave. And if you don’t leave, you might start reading and buying into hateful ideas there. It seems like such a small and simple thing, but it’s things like this that erode our safeguards against dangers we’ve sacrificed so much to fight. By the time you’ve played a hundred hours of being a Nazi, their voice stabs become memes and in-jokes with your friends. By the thousandth time you’ve respawned as a terrorist, you’re either celebrating them or making fun of them, neither of which helps the global crisis we have that takes thousands of lives every year. So what do we do? That’s easy. Don’t make them morally equivalent. Don’t make there be no in-game moral difference between your Nazis and your Allies, between your terrorists and your counter-terrorist squads. Frame PvP as a training exercise, or simply take one of your non-odious sides and recolor them so that it’s red vs blue, rather than Axis versus Allies. A good example of a game that does this is RainbowSix Siege. All of your bomb defusion, and hostage rescue multiplayer, with no normalizing terrorists. In fact, by having all of the characters as counter-terrorists, training for a possible threat, it highlights how real and present of a threat that is. And if you decide that you need to have both sides be playable, don’t make them interchangeable. Don’t have players randomly spawn in as one or the other. Allow players to choose which side they’re on. Now, of course, this has all sorts of in-game problems, such as creating shorter wait times for fascists, but you know what? Those wait times could be artificially extended, if it meant players had an active choice in what teams they would represent, if you’re saying we need people playing Nazis in our games. And if you’re going to say, “but we need it for historical reasons,” then your game better actually be historical. You can’t really just hide behind the fact you called your desert map El-Alamein and say “but its historical!” If that were the case, you need your PvP to at least represent real historical events, and be a realistic take on those battles. Once you make both sides balanced, it’s also no longer historical, and you can’t really say that you need Nazis anymore for historical accuracy. Oh, and once you let players get cool weapons that weren’t actually at that particular battleground? It’s also no longer historically accurate, and you can’t declare that your game will suffer if you don’t put players in the jackboots of the Third Reich. And once your map is something carefully designed to have good gameplay, by a team in a room in San Francisco or LA, and it’s not a faithful reconstruction of the actual places the historical events occurred in, you can no longer say, “We need to have players take up arms in service of terror or hate.” And look, we’re not saying we can’t have games about WWII or about terrorism. We’re not even saying we shouldn’t make games where you play as a Nazi or a terrorist, but what we are saying, is that the fact that you’re playing as a Nazi or a terrorist in a game has to mean something, and it can’t just be a skin. It can’t be something that a game randomly drops you into. And really, if we are saying anything in this episode, it’s this: games can do better. And in this particular case, it’s not even that hard to do better, and it’s no more costly to do better! All it requires is that we in the game industry be cognizant of the world around us, and what these symbols were drawing on mean. That we think as we’re building, not just about the game we’re working on, but about the world as a whole. If we can do that, we can take a big step forward for the industry. We can stop helping to normalize Nazis.