I am not an FPS fan, nor have I ever been a fan of the Call of Duty series. I hold nothing against it, but it seems that in their goal to bring the sensitive issues of war, Nazis, and Jim Crow America to light became an insensitive and irresponsible design of historical revisionism and inadvertent abuse towards black people.
In the age of historical revisionism, attacks on the middle and lower class, and outright dictatorships emerging in leading Western countries that we’ve seen come to head in 2017, it is the social and moral duty for artist and art media to make conscious exhibitions on what is right and what is wrong. For a franchise as large and far reaching as Call of Duty, this should be a no-brainer.
There are many debates going on about inclusiveness in the Call of Duty franchise, particularly with the new release of COD: World War II. Singleplayer mode does not incorporate a variety of black and female NPCs, but includes the swastika as a show of historical accuracy. Though most black Americans know about how men of color participated in WWII for the Allies, not including/creating a story based on them is not a very strong argument to stand behind, developers.
The rewrite: let’s add black people in the multiplayer mode and say it’s for equality! You get to be black Nazis! The message sent is you can erase the role of black men and other men of color and rewrite WWII history for the glory of the Allies’ white narrative as they did in singleplayer mode, AND feel comfortable rewriting history to include black Nazis. In other words, black men cannot be saviors, but black men and women can be villainized and killed. This is the message I and many other blerds have received from COD:WWII.
And let’s touch on these black female Nazis. It is no secret the way women of color are threatened daily with sexual harassment and painful racist slurs in the world of gaming. I can’t help but feel that many insecure little boys playing this game with visible black women will target them more with demeaning harassment, plus adding to the fact that they are the new “nazis”. (Contrarily, if you wanted to include women where are the white ones, because that would be historical accurate.)
And I get it, players want their avatars to look like them. Sledgehammer states the same – that this is about YOU and YOUR journey in the game, despite which team you may be put on. And to be honest, I truly respect that. So, at what point can we discuss whether this was a good decision of bad prior to release. Who makes the decision that those playing pseudo Nazis should or shouldn’t use an avatar of color or a woman? Will this cross the line for a large number of users? I do not have an answer really. Unfortunately, these questions will never be discussed until the gaming industry and gaming icons opens their doors to more men and women of color.
The severe lack of diversity in the gaming world is detrimental. These decisions to include all races inaccurately for the Axis powers will only allow for further villainizations of black men and women via the game. This decision to take away the swastikas from Nazis as “censorship” in multiplayer mode allows for the erasure of what the Nazi party did and stood for; it allows the audience to rewrite history and exempt their evils. I get it – the game could not have released the game in Germany without this censor of the Nazi party in multiplayer mode. But that’s what localization and region patches are for! This is NOT the wisest way to add diversity to a game. I had hoped they would do better. But no. They did not. I expect better from a major companies like Activision and Sledgehammer. I applaud their stance to include more diversity and to discuss historical racism, but COD:WWII unfortunately did not hit the mark.