If you follow the goings on at the Mobile Frame Hangar. You may have noticed a recent thread where there was a fairly heated discussion of naming conventions, Nazism, and the place of symbolism. I will admit that it was my initial contribution that kicked things off. The debate got a little heated and Mantisking wisely decided to exercise his moderatorly powers and lock the thread for a period.
Some on the forum feel that those of us who point out such things are being mean-spirited, unfair, or accusatory. Others on the forum support the viewpoint that fascist symbolism is a worrying trend in gaming circles. Regardless of which side of the fence you’re on, I would like to use this post to outline why I said what I said, and what I think it all means within the context of what is – after all – just a game.
First off, I was not at any point accusing the poster in question of being a Nazi, having Nazi or neo-Nazi sympathies, or supporting fascist ideologies in any way. He contributed a really rather excellent mobile frame that was worthy of lengthy discussion in its own right. The reason I made my post was that I saw a collection of symbols that caused me concern. Not – I state again – because I believed the poster subscribed to any of the beliefs I noted above, but because of what I see as a collection of symbols that show uncritical acceptance of fascist or Nazi symbolism within the wider gaming community.
Joshua and Soren have been quite clear as regards the position of such symbolism within Mobile Frame Zero: it is not welcome, and it is problematic. While I disagree on some of the finer points of debate, I wholly associate myself with their stance on such things. Such symbolism has too much of an easy, unthinking acceptance in gaming culture, and it deserves to be challenged and debated.
Returning to the forum thread that kicked all of this off, the individual parts contribute towards a whole. The parts on their own would not have contributed in anything more than a minor way to my concern. Before I continue, let me once more reassure the forum user in question that I am not attributing belief or support to him. However, it was the coincidence of three things that caused me to question:
1) A username that replicated that of a noted Waffen SS panzer division of WW2.
2) A naming convention that was redolent of Third Reich armoured vehicle nomenclature.
3) A nickname that replicated a specific Third Reich armoured vehicle.
Someone may very well have a healthy interest in the military history of WW2, the evolution of armoured warfare, the technology of tanks. That’s all fine. But, I do question the use of a Waffen SS divisional title as a username. Would anyone, for example, use Totenkopf or Das Reich as a username? I very much doubt it. Yes, the Wiking division has less association with war crimes than either of the divisions mentioned above, but they were still associated to a certain extent and were part of the SS as an organisation. Saying, as some did, that they were just a German tank division is somewhat wide of the mark.
The use of the numerical conventions associated with Third Reich armour is also very popular in gaming circles. The symbolism is there for all to see. It is also, in a way, slightly boring and trite. It has been used so often that it ceases to be really visible. This is a worrying aspect. So ingrained into our culture has it become, we accept it without thinking.
I also feel the need to address the concern expressed by some that, in some way, by raising these points I am somehow implying that we should only ever associate Germany with the Third Reich. This characterisation could not be farther from the truth. The Third Reich is indeed fascinating from an historical perspective – witness the enduring popularity of books, films, and other media associated with it. But it does not represent the totality of German history or German culture. German has a rich, diverse, and extremely interesting history (playing to my own research interests, it is post-WW2 Germany that holds the greatest fascination for me), a history that should be explored as widely as possible.
These are things we should be debating and discussing. Yes, it may be “just a game”, but sometimes we should raise our heads up and look beyond the gaming table. We should be willing to make our community the kind of place were we can discuss such things and critically examine problematic elements within our culture.