On the potentials of digital games for remembrance cultures II: A Brief History of the Second World War in Digital Games

This is the second part of a text based on a keynote I gave at the conference “Erinnern mit Games” on June 24, 2021. At the suggestion of my colleagues, I have decided to divide the text into two parts: A first theoretical part here, and this second part with some concrete reflections on digital games, focusing on World War II in games. A German version of the talk has been published on the blog of the “Stiftung Digitale Spielkultur”. A French version can be found here. For the English version I have thoroughly revised the text again with the help of Tobias Winnerling, Peter Färberböck and Christian Günther.

1. In the first part I tried to show that: 

  • Cultures of Remembrance are the sum of our collective memories. This includes museums, monuments, history lessons, but also all thinkable artifacts and practices of popular culture.  (Another current translation for the German term “Erinnerungskulturen” is memory cultures).
  • In and through our cultures of remembrance we decide what we want to remember and how, and what we do not need to remember or should even forget. On the one hand, this process can take place consciously, for example when individual authors consciously want to recall specific episodes, but it also very often takes place unconsciously, when popular historical settings are staged according to unwritten genre conventions. Certain historical settings cannot prevail because they do not meet (or create) demand.
  • This kind of remembrance has an identity-forming function; shared memories create a community. These can be regional, national but also transnational identities. These memories also have a legitimizing function for the respective community or identity.
The Lion’s Song (screenshot by the author)

2. According to Aleida Assmann, there is no self-organization of a cultural memory. This is rather the result of a “targeted politics of memory” (gezielte Erinnerungspolitik). If I read this correctly, Aleida Assmann assumes that every culture of remembrance is the result of the actions of a multitude of individual actors, who can also be contradictory and/or compete with each other for the sovereignty of interpretation. [1] Applied to digital games, we can for example talk of such “targeted politics of memory”, when individual developers write games with a conscious statement. In the recent past, there are more and more examples of such conscious acts of remembrance. The Taiwanese horror game Detention is a striking example. Here, the developers were concerned with remembering a forgotten history of the dictatorship of the Kuomintang and the period of “white terror”. It is also particularly intriguing that the genre conventions of horror were deliberately used here to specifically convey a certain message. [2] A similar approach is taken with Mi’Pu’Mi games Lion’s Song. The game not only specifically identifies an existing culture of memory – in this case fin de siècle Vienna – but also deliberately deconstructs individual aspects, especially gender constructs, of this collective memory. Similarly, Charlesgame’s recent game Svoboda 1945 deals with the events in the CSSR immediately after the end of World War II, including but not limited to the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans. Here I find it particularly exciting that there are also very few other popular cultural artifacts on the subject, because the sometimes contradictory shared memories here remain controversial. In this case, the interactivity of the game may have provided an opportunity to critically illuminate a collective memory that would not have worked in linear media forms.

Detention (Screenshot by the author)

3. Especially in the recent past, however, there are examples of games about the Second World War and the crimes of the Nazi regime that make a conscious effort to contribute to the Culture of Remembrance. Just last year, two very interesting games were created here in close cooperation with actors from memorial sites.  There is for one Playing History’s Spuren auf Papier which was developed as part of the project “Serious Game der Gedenkstätte Wehnen”.  The second recent example is Paintbucket Games’ Forced Abroad – Tage eines Zwangsarbeiters, an interactive novel based on the story of a Dutch forced laborer in the Neuaubing labor camp, which was created in collaboration with the NS-Dokumentationszentrum München. Both games testify to a paradigm shift, for they show that games are now also regarded by the actors of memory politics as a serious mediating instance. This was made possible not least by two other serious games that also led to a political rethink in Germany and became the first digital games to receive an age rating despite the use of swastikas.

Screenshots by the author from Attentat 1942

4. In Germany, the reproduction of certain “anti-constitutional symbols” (verfassungswidrige Symbole), for example the swastika, the SS runes, the Hitler salute, the profile picture of Adolf Hitler is prohibited according to §86 and §86b of the German penal code. Exempt are uses in the fields of science and teaching, art or civic education. While this so-called “social adequacy clause”  (Sozialadäquanzklausel) has been broadly applied to film and television to date, digital games have been exempt. This has led mainly to a superficial removal of Nazi symbols in WWII games, but not to a responsible approach to the memory of the crimes of the Nazi regime. [3] This changed only recently, when the USK decided to apply the social adequacy clause to digital games as well, and to grant age ratings to two games accordingly. This should not be surprising because these two examples were developed in particular to deal with the crimes of the Nazi regime: Charles Games’ Attentat 1942 and Paintbucket Games’ Through the Darkest of Times. These games were aimed at contributing to the culture of remembrance.  This means that we are dealing with two examples in which individual actors consciously wanted to communicate certain statements about a common memory, and also used the game mechanics for this purpose. These two targeted acts also led to a political change of an official culture of remembrance. After initial political resistance from the SPD and the German Trade Union [4], a rethinking occurred in the medium term, which allowed games like Spuren auf Papier und Forced Abroad a little later.

Through the Darkest of Times (Screenshot des Autors)

5. But what about “historical” games like Battlefield V and Call of Duty: WWII, games that were developed with big budgets primarily as sales products for a market? To the best of my knowledge, these games were not developed with the aim of consciously helping to shape a (Western?) culture of remembrance, but above all to generate profits. They are not the result of “targeted politics of memory,” but neither are they without influence on memory cultures. These games were made apparently without a specific mission concerning a culture of remembrance, but they interact with cultures of remembrance nonetheless. They respond to and serve expectations. But do these games simply reproduce a culture of remembrance as it already existed? Do they just reiterate dominant discursive statements so to speak? Since both games broke with some game specific and genre specific paradigms – Call of Duty: WWII featured a photo of a Jewish concentration camp inmate for a brief moment and Battlefield V made female soldiers playable – I think this explanation is insufficient. Instead I would argue that our culture of remembrance itself must be understood as a discourse. This discourse – in this case a well-rehearsed culture of remembrance of the Second World War in digital games – is similar to a system aimed at self-preservation. This moment is served by (presumed) expectations of the players and the extremely conservative strategies in the AAA business. Existing narrative forms and statements are reproduced. Only they are imaginable for the time being. Now this state of equilibrium meets the changing needs of a cross-media culture of remembrance. The memory of the crimes of the Nazi regime as a fanal at the origin of a democractic self conception requires – not least because of the disappearance of the last contemporary witnesses – new communication channels. 

6. This means that expensive global game productions such as games from the Call of Duty series –with production costs in the tens of millions of dollars – follow very conservative production logics. In order to minimize risks and recoup the extremely high production and marketing costs, tried and tested routines are usually repeated until they no longer work. And what is at the moment particularly interesting for us is that despite this conservative logic, a change has taken place here in terms of an originally American culture of remembrance that mostly coincides with most Western European cultures of remembrance. I assume that the break with the taboo of concentration camps did not stem from an educational mission but was a reaction to a cultural-political paradigm shift that was initiated by smaller game productions, among others. The discourse has been transformed by the needs of memory culture and has now reached a new equilibrium.

A POW-camp in Call of Duty: WWII (Screenshot by the author)

7. It is interesting to note that the Call of Duty series is not necessarily known for tackling difficult topics as sensitively as possible. So why did the developers and publishers of Call of Duty: WWII go out of their way to announce that they wanted to show the “darker side” of the war even before its release? “Some very, very dark things happened during this conflict and it felt wrong for us to ignore that,” explained creative director Brett Robbins in an interview. [5] In the game’s epilogue, we briefly see a photo of a concentration camp prisoner wearing a Jewish star. Even more intriguing is the subsequently playable epilogue: the player suddenly has to explore an abandoned POW camp – unarmed – which clearly serves as an iconic reference to a concentration camp in this context , as Tabea Widmann has demonstrated. [6] At the same time, the game also addressed latent anti-Semitism within the U.S. Army. Although players are presented here with a new, unusually frank addressing of anti-Semitism and Nazi war crimes, I suspect that this was not a bold attempt to construct a completely new form of remembrance, but on the contrary a reaction to a paradigm shift that had already taken place in feature films twenty years earlier. Or, as Tobias Winnerling very aptly summarized it in a comment to me: digital games have now become suitable for the masses to the extent that they no longer lead a closed special discourse, but have become part of the large memory-cultural discourse formation. They are therefore now subject to the constraints of this formation, and this includes that one must not be silent about the Holocaust.  “In reversal of Wittgenstein, one might say here that what one cannot be silent about, one must speak about (with emphasis on “must”).”

The epilogue in Call of Duty: WWII (screenshot by the author)

8. When Brett Robbins states in an interview: “Some very, very dark things happened during this conflict and it felt wrong for us to ignore that”, are we dealing with a conscious actor and a purposeful politics of memory? I think we are instead dealing with the reaction to a changing discourse. Perhaps in the course of the next few years we will reach a state where it is no longer conceivable to develop a game about the Second World War that focuses solely on the heroic stories of individual soldiers. 

A Brief History of the Second World War in Digital Games

9. In order to better understand how this discourse, i.e. a culture of remembrance has already changed in video games, it is necessary to take a brief look at the history of the Second World War in digital games:

WWII-game covers from the 1980s (collage by the author)

10. In the 1980s, there were mainly strategy games and vehicle simulations. They emerged from tabletop games and so called conflict simulations (in German often called Kosims). Publishers like Avalon Hill were in fact manufacturers for board games, that developed at first programs to help calculate.  From the covers of these games, it becomes quite clear which kind of historical image is being served here: A martial mis en scène of (mostly German) war machinery, especially the German “Panzer”. These were supplemented by portraits of the “heroes” and “antagonists” of the games: Patton, Montgomery but also Rommel, Guderian and Keitel. In exceptional cases, even Adolf Hitler was on the cover. But the portraits found no counterpart in the game. They served only as icons of history. The games, initially mainly strategy games and a few vehicle simulations, told the war in a highly abstracted way, as the board games had done before. In the tradition of the Prussian war game, the Second World War here became a Battle of Wits, a heroic story of two equal powers, in which one side prevails due to its greater skill. Accordingly, there are no references to the dark sides of the war in the manuals, but the evocation of heroic stories as we know them from the early war movies of the 1960s. SSI’s Knights of the Desert has eleven pages of historical background in the manual. Written in a lively manner, it is a typical tale of military heroes (on both sides of the war): ‘Then came the battle of the nerves that had to be fought many times in North Africa—the British commander trying to prepare a telling blow with scarce resources while holding off Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s insistent call for immediate action’ [7]. Some games, like Microprose’s Crusade in Europe began to tentatively approach the singularity of World War II, as can be read in the first paragraph of the manual: ‘EUROPE, JUNE 5,1944: The dark night of Nazi oppression enshrouds the continent. For three long years the nations of Europe have endured the brutal occupation’ (Manual Crusade in Europe).

11. In the 1990s, the graphics of simulations like Aces over Europe or Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe, as well as of strategy games like the Panzer General series, became better and better. In the games, short animated sequences conveyed the intended historical atmosphere. [8] At the same time, the gameplay was hesitantly embedded in a historical narrative. The specificity of the Second World War was emphasized by means of the evocation of a dark age in Europe. The history told through these games was still the story of heroes, and while some manuals (e.g. the one for Aces over Europe) began to talk of the illegitimacy of the German declaration of war against Poland, there was no mention of fascist ideologies and the Holocaust (Manual Aces over Europe).  Games like SSI’s Panzer General series, in turn, continued to tell a de-ideologized story of World War II as a grand strategy game. Although they tried to create a historical atmosphere with the help of historicized backdrops and, for example, a “German Accent” in the sound output of the mission announcer, which was gratefully received, the war became a harmless conflict simulation. By the way, this was also the reason why Panzer General was indexed in Germany. [9] Another example that must be mentioned here is the “concentration camp manager” circulated by right-wing radicals in Germany and Austria in the early 1990s. The dehumanizing simulation was spread in schoolyards and, although it was never clarified how far it was actually spread, it made it into the New York Times. The game was immediately indexed in Germany, and yet it probably served as a justification for the taboo against depicting the Holocaust in games for a long time.

12. In the early 1990s, Wolfenstein 3D was the first first-person shooter, a game in which the player has to reach a goal in labyrinthine corridors from a first-person perspective and shoot several enemies in the process. The Nazi opponents, exaggerated to the grotesque, were clearly marked as evil. Nevertheless, the game is considered to have triggered the subsequent practice of defusing the Second World War games for the German market: Swastikas and SS runes were removed, the NSDAP and members of the Nazi regime were either not mentioned or renamed. In fact, the game was banned in Germany, but not because of the anti-constitutional symbols but because of the explicit depiction of physical violence and vigilantism. 

13. Then, at the turn of the millennium, the first noticeable paradigm shift occurred with the development of Medal of Honor. Steven Spielberg, in his multimedia strategy to commemorate the Second World War, had commissioned not only the television series Band of Brothers and the feature film Saving Private Ryan,  but also the first person shooter Medal of Honor to deliberately try to bring the history of the Second World War to a young audience. Reportedly there had been initial resistance within the game studio Dreamworks Interactive to develop a first person shooter set in the Second World War, being afraid that such a serious subject wouldn’t sell. In this case, then, it would have been Steven Spielberg’s insistence on deliberately pursuing a memory-political mission, against the resistance of the discourse that succeeded in changing the paradigm. After it had already become a standard practice in feature films (after Schindler’s List) and TV series (after Holocaust) to refer to the crimes of the Nazi regime, [10]  these were now also mentioned in games for the first time: In Medal of Honor: Underground, Heinrich Himmler was shown and named in a cut scene (of the international version) as the person responsible for “the greatest crimes against humanity in human history”. Despite all concerns WWII-First Person Shooters became a successful staple of video games. [11] Nevertheless, the representation of the Holocaust in games was apparently still unthinkable, as the example of Imagination is the only escape shows. A didactic game that was supposed to show the life of a Jewish boy in Paris during the Nazi occupation, it was supposed to be released for the Nintendo DS in 2008, but was canceled by the publisher and is expected to be released 14 years later under the name Light into Darkness.

14. A second paradigmatic shift took place in the 2010s with the first-person shooter Wolfenstein: The New Order, a game that tells its story in a retrofuturistic alternate history – here comparable to the movie Iron Sky – with robot dogs and Nazi bases on the moon and Venus. Later in the game, the players have to infiltrate a prison camp that is iconographically referencing a concentration camp: cattle cars, ramps, huge industrial chimneys, packed barracks and a barred gate with the camp’s name above the entrance. The protagonist is first driven from the train cars into a building, where he has to go through a selection process and gets a number tattooed on his arm. [12] Despite these references, there was no outcry in the international press. The previous taboo of not mentioning the Holocaust in games was broken. While the Holocaust is only iconographically referenced in the part, it is openly addressed in the sequel Wolfenstein: The New Colossus. In this respect, Call of Duty: WW II only reacted to an already changed practice of remembrance. Apparently, digital games are trying to find their own language for remembering the Holocaust at this moment. The discourse of popular culture of remembrance has found a new equilibrium. So, with a delay of two decades, a paradigm shift took place here that had previously taken place in film, television, and graphic novels. The TV series Holocaust, the film Schindler’s List and the graphic novel Maus all have been individual successful productions that helped change the framework of what could be shown and thought about in the long term.

From actors of destruction here they become silent witnesses of mass destruction.

15. At the same time, digital games are not just another medium among many, as Tabea Widmann and Felix Zimmermann[13] have shown in their previous work. Digital games enrich our culture of remembrance through the development of a new language. Both the camp scene in Wolfenstein: The New Order and in Call of Duty: WWII have a fundamentally different effect than comparable film scenes. Players experienced their agency through running and gunning through the game shortly before, as is common in first person shooter, but in the camp this form of control over the environment is taken away from them. Instead of using guns to defeat opponents, they had to become passive potential victims. From actors of destruction they become silent – prosthetic – witnesses [14] of mass destruction here. In a genre that thrives on giving its players a quasi-permanent sense of omnipotence through the use of weapons, the sudden restriction of agency to walking and watching shall create an oppressive feeling. These are experiences of a shared remembrance  that are distinct from media such as film and novels in their interactivity. 

“This looks more like a labour camp” Call of Duty: WWII (Screenshot by the author)

16. Now Tobias Winnerling rightly pointed out to me that there were other interactive memory media before digital games: reenactment, role-playing games, and so on. I also think he’s right that in the interplay of players with each other (multiplayer, for example) there are many parallels to be found here. The single player experience in games is different in that the interactivity is not negotiated with other people, but is dictated by an authoritative program. This simulation means that players do not negotiate the outcome of the game with other people but are confronted with a rigid set of rules and gameplay. This enables a form of immersion that is fundamentally different from other collective game forms. The fact that players do not have a say in the outcome emulates a form of contingency that in some cases is as difficult to discount as in everyday life. Of course, these game experiences are not in any proportion comparable to what actually happened, but they are medial moments that can highlight the uniqueness of this remembrance. Another example for the potential of digital games is highlighted in the resistance simulation Through the Darkest of Times. IIt offers players a sense of what it feels like to suddenly be responsible for a handful of people in the resistance and their families.

17. What I wanted to show, among other things, is that each culture of remembrance is not just the result of political and intellectual elites, but is a discourse with its own rules and law that not only reproduces itself, but also adapts to the needs of the society behind it as circumstances change. Indeed, close to 80 years have passed since the end of the Second World War, a timespan which for Aleida and Jan Assmann marks the turning point between a communicative memory and a cultural memory: communicative memory ends when the last eyewitnesses have died, to be succeeded by cultural memory. [15] In order to keep a cultural memory alive, new forms of remembrance are needed. 

Call of Duty: WWII (Screenshot by the author)

18. This demonstrates how important these memories are, not only for individual actors, but also for the culture(s) of remembrance itself. Initiatives by individuals and a diffuse popular culture of remembrance are the two actors of these cultures of remembrance. They are not so much in conflict with each other as they are in constant exchange. However, it is only the attempts of individual actors to influence the discourse of memory that, if successful, can change it in such a lasting way that the discourse of memory itself changes. This happened, for example, when Attentat 1942 and Through the Darkest of Times deliberately tried to tell about the crimes of the Nazi regime in digital games. It was exciting to observe how quickly socio-political institutions such as the German rating board USK reacted to this in 2018 and adjusted their rating criteria. The USK, which regulates the age rating for games in Germany, announced on August 9, 2018 that it planned to apply the social adequacy clause from then on, after thorough examination of each case. The status quo ante – games without swastikas but also without a critical approach to the Second World War – in no way guaranteed a responsible approach to the history of the Second World War in digital games. Hasty (self-)censorship [16] did not so much protect against abuse, but has in some cases prevented an honest approach to the topic in games.  This not only affects the depiction of Nazi symbols but also imaginaries of the Shoah in digital games. At the same time, individual actors can only be successful if the discourse allows them to be. [17]

19. In conclusion, I would like to quote Aleida Assmann once again: “The transition from living individual to artificial cultural memory is problematic, however, because it brings with it the danger of distortions of reduction, of instrumentalization of memory. Such narrowing and hardening can only be countered by publicly accompanying criticism, reflection, and discussion.” [18]  

Further Reading:

  • Adam Chapman / Jonas Linderoth, “Exploring the Limits of Play: A Case Study of Representations of Nazism in Games,” in: The Dark Side of Game Play: Controversial Issues in Playful Environments, edited by Torill Elvira Mortensen /Jonas Linderoth /Ashley ML Brown, (London 2015), 137-153.
  • Eugen Pfister und Felix Zimmermann,. ” ‘No One is Ever Ready for Something Like This.’ – On the Dialectic of the Holocaust in First-Person Shooters as Exemplified by Wolfenstein: The New Order: ” International Public History, vol. 4, no. 1, 2021, pp. 35-46. https://doi.org/10.1515/iph-2021-2020.
  • Eugen Pfister und Martin Tschiggerl, “’The Führer’s facial hair and name can also be reinstated in the virtual world’ Taboos, Authenticity and the Second World War in digital games” in: GAME 09/2020 [= The taboos of game studies ed. by Kristine Jørgensen & Riccardo Fassone] [open access]
  • Eugen Pfister, “Of Monsters and Men“ – Shoah in digital games. In: Public History Weekly 6 (2018) 23, DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1515/phw-2018-12271.
  • Tabea Widmann, “Playing Memories? Digital Games as Memory Media,” in: Digital Holocaust memory, 17.09.2020, https://reframe.sussex.ac.uk/digitalholocaustmemory/2020/09/17/playing-memories-digital-games-as-memory-media/

Filmography

  • Holocaust (US 1978)
  • Iron Sky (SU/DE/AUS 2012)
  • Saving Private Ryan (US 1998)
  • Schindler’s List (US 1994)

Ludography

  • Attentat 1942 (Charles Games: CZ 2017 / Windows et al.)
  • Aces over Europe (Dynamix: US 1993 / DOS)
  • Call of Duty: WWII (Treyarch: US 2017 / PS4)
  • ​​Crusade in Europe (Microprose: US 1985 / Apple II)
  • Detention  (Red Candle Games: Taiwan 2017 / Playstation 4 et al.)
  • Forced Abroad (Paintbucket Games D 2022 / iOS et al.)
  • Lion’s Song (Mi’Pu’Mi’ Games: A 2016 / Windows et al.)
  • Medal of Honor (Dreamworks Interactive: US 1999 / Playstation)
  • Medal of Honor: Underground (Dreamworks Interactive: US 2000 / Playstation)
  • ​​Panzer General (SSI: US 1995 / DOS)
  • Spuren auf Papier (Playing History: DE 2022 / Browser)
  • Svoboda 1945 (Charles Games: CZ 2021 / Windows et al.)
  • Through the Darkest of Times (Paintbucket Games D 2020 / Windows et al.)
  • Wolfenstein 3D (id: US 1993 / DOS)
  • Wolfenstein: The New Colossus (Machinegames: SE 2017 / PS4)
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order (Machinegames: SE 2014 / PS4)

[1] Aleida Assmann, Erinnerungsräume. Formen und Wandlungen des kulturellen Gedächtnisses. München 2018, 15. Translation by the author.

[2] Eugen Pfister, „White Terror und Geheime Buchklubs (Fallstudie 23: Detention)“ in: Horror-Game-Politics, 10.06.2021, http://hgp.hypotheses.org/1404.

[3] Cf. ​​Adam Chapman / Jonas Linderoth, “Exploring the Limits of Play: A Case Study of Representations of Nazism in Games,” in: The Dark Side of Game Play: Controversial Issues in Playful Environments, edited by Torill Elvira Mortensen /Jonas Linderoth /Ashley ML Brown, (London 2015), 137–153. See also Tobias Meßmer, “Ist Hakenkreuz gleich Hakenkreuz ? Der Umgang des staatlichen Jugendschutzes mit verfassungsfeindlichen Symbolen im Digitalen Spiel 1985-1994,” in: in: Gespielt – Blog des AKGWDS, 23.08.2019.

[4] Eugen Pfister, “Spiel ohne Juden. Zur Darstellung des Holocaust in Digitalen Spielen.”, in: Markus Stumpf, Hans Petschar und Oliver Rathkolb (Hg.), Nationalsozialismus digital. Die Verantwortung von Bibliotheken, Archiven und Museen sowie Forschungseinrichtungen und Medien im Umgang mit der NS-Zeit im Netz.  Wien: V&R unipress 2021, 157-176.

[5] Adam Rosenberg, „‚Call of Duty: WWII‘ won’t ignore the Holocaust anymore. This is a big change for World War II-set games.“ In: mashable.com, 26.04.2017, https://mashable.com/article/call-of-duty-wwii-holocaust-interview.

[6] Tabea Widmann, “Spielerisches Erinnern an den Holocaust?”, in: stiftung-digitale-spielekultur.de, 04.05.2021, https://www.stiftung-digitale-spielekultur.de/spielerisches-erinnern-an-den-holocaust-tabea-widmann/.

[7] Eugen Pfister, ‘Man spielt nicht mit Hakenkreuzen!’ Imaginations of the Holocaust and Crimes Against Humanity During World War II in Digital Games, in: Alexander von Lünen et al. (ed.), Historia Ludens: The Playing Historian, London: Routledge 2019, 267-284, 271.

[8] Ibid 272.

[9] Ibid 272-273.

[10] Eugen Pfister, “Das Unspielbare spielen – Imaginationen des Holocaust in Digitalen Spielen” in Zeitgeschichte 4 (2016), 250-263.

[11] Ten parts of the Medal of Honor series were set in World War II, as well as five parts each of the Call of Duty and Battlefield series.

[12] Cf. Eugen Pfister und Felix Zimmermann,. ” ‘No One is Ever Ready for Something Like This.’ – On the Dialectic of the Holocaust in First-Person Shooters as Exemplified by Wolfenstein: The New Order: ” International Public History, vol. 4, no. 1, 2021, pp. 35-46. https://doi.org/10.1515/iph-2021-2020.

[13] Tabea Widmann, “Playing Memories? Digital Games as Memory Media,” in: Digital Holocaust memory, 17.09.2020, https://reframe.sussex.ac.uk/digitalholocaustmemory/2020/09/17/playing-memories-digital-games-as-memory-media/ and Felix Zimmermann, “Status Quo der Erinnerungskultur mit Games,” in: stiftung-digitale-spielekultur.de, 27.08.2020, https://www.stiftung-digitale-spielekultur.de/status-quo-der-erinnerungskultur-mit-games-felix-zimmermann/

[14] Tabea Widmann und Josefine Honke, Prosthetic Witnesses. Eine neue Form von Zeugenschaft in medialisierten Erinnerungskulturen,” in: Entgrenzte Erinnerung

Erinnerungskultur der Postmemory-Generation im medialen Wandel, edited by Anne-Berenike Rothstein / Stefanie Pilzweger-Steiner (Berlin 2020), 93-134. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110668971-006

[15] On the attempt to save eyewitnesses in “holograms” see Steffi de Jong, “Witness Auschwitz? Wie VR Zeugenschaft verändert,” in: Public History Weekly, 16.04.2020, https://public-history-weekly.degruyter.com/8-2020-4/witness-auschwitz-vr/  

[16] Felix Zimmermann, “Wider die Selbstzensur – Das Dritte Reich, nationalsozialistische Verbrechen und der Holocaust im Digitalen Spiel,” in: Gespielt – Blog des AKGWDS, 27.08.2017, https://gespielt.hypotheses.org/1449

[17] “All of these new narratives correct the blunt master narrative of a white-washed Second World War with essential insights gained from decades of historical reappraisal. This is gradually changing the popular culture of memory in digital games: The epoch of World War 2 and the Nazi era is finally also told as a memorial against fascist and totalitarian tyranny and not solely – as before – as a war like any other. This development may be continued in future games. It would be good if historical science actively and constructively accompanied it.” Bastian Dawitz, “Krieg bleibt immer gleich!? – Ein Plädoyer wider die Meistererzählung in Spielen zum 2. Weltkrieg,” in: Gespielt – Blog des AKGWDS, 04.06.2020, https://gespielt.hypotheses.org/3701,

(translation by the author)

[18] Aleida Assmann, Erinnerungsräume. Formen und Wandlungen des kulturellen Gedächtnisses. München 2018, 15. Translation by the author.


Eugen Pfister

Eugen Pfister leitet das SNF-Ambizione-Forschungsprojekt "Horror-Game-Politics" an der Hochschule der Künste Bern - HKB. Er forscht zu digitalen Spielen als historische Quellen (spielkult.hypotheses.org).

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2 Antworten

  1. Michael Kleu sagt:

    Auch der zweite Teil des Beitrags ist sehr spannend und bietet einen tollen Überblick.

    Dabei fällt mir auf, dass der 2. WK nie so ein Setting gewesen ist, das mich besonders angesprochen hat. Ich habe nur relativ wenige der genannten Spiele gespielt. Vielleicht muss ich das mal nachholen.

    • Jetzt autobiographisch betrachtet, kam das Thema 2. WK bei mir durch Kindheitsfreunde herangetragen. ich war immer eher Fantasy interessiert. Zugleich habe ich immer gern alles ausprobiert und hatte dann auch eine Modelbauphase, wo ich plötzlich Kriegsschiffe und Flugzeuge aus der Zeit zusammengeklebt habe. Da sieht man dann eh schon, ungefähr aus welcher Richtung die Faszination kam: technisches Spielzeug, dass Krachbumm macht. Die tatsächlichen Auswirkungen dieses Spielzeugs konnte ich mit elf, zwölg glaub ich gar nicht begreifen. Merkwürdigerweise ist mein Zwölfjähriger da viel weiter. Eugen

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