Call of Duty and the Holocaust

Recently I came across an advertisement for a new DLC (Downloadable Content) pack for the newest Call of Duty video game Call of Duty: WWII. The expansion pack (entitled The Resistance) provides players additional maps for gameplay (including the game’s ‘Nazi Zombie’ mode). I personally haven’t given this game much attention but I was intrigued. In the past, I have played previous Call of Duty games and their previous iteration set in World War II also featured a mode where player are able to maintain a safe house against hordes of the undead wearing Swastikas. The idea of having Nazis as the antagonist for this game mode strikes me as interesting, as our conversations in class. I feel like it is almost too removing of the actual context of the Holocaust. Given that these were actual humans who committed actual atrocities, it almost seems a poor choice to depict members of the Third Reich as supernatural monsters. To me, that takes the agency away from the people who committed such awful acts and almost neuters the power that Nazi imagery should have.

Additionally, after investigating the ‘Nazi Zombies’ of the game; I was curious how the game handled the Holocaust aspect of World War 2 (if at all). I was able to find several articles that commented on the game’s depiction of a concentration camp. The game does depict the main characters entering an abandoned shell of a camp. Although it doesn’t go as far as it could with depicting the actual killing camps (the camp in game is described as a labor camp), the American GIs in the game do make a point of documenting the conditions that they see (video below). Given the game’s more ‘approachable’ attempt at depicting the Holocaust (not showing corpses, emancipated prisoners), I feel like this is in line with a more marketable depiction of the atrocities of WWII, without potentially alienaning an audience. I think it is interesting that consumers are more than willing with interacting and portraying the battlefield carnage of WWII but that realism stops at the depictions of the Holocaust.

2 Replies to “Call of Duty and the Holocaust”

  1. This post is incredibly interesting for a couple of reasons. First, in class, we’ve talked extensively about how books and movies play a large role in shaping our understanding of past events. However, it had never really occurred to me that video games, especially those that are war related, are also subconsciously shaping the way we understand history. Second, the makers of the game have given a relatively solid recreation. From having no other exposure other than watching the video, I would commend them. Could they have gone farther to depict the actual horrors of the killings in the camp and illicit emotional response. Yes, absolutely. However, from a purely educational perspective, they showed an accurate representation of the camps, addressed the conditions in which the prisoners lived, gave a graphic display of Nazi cruelty, and even hinted at forced marches. If this were someone’s first introduction to what occurred at the camps, it would be a pretty good one.

  2. Video games are hugely popular among teens, many of whom haven’t been exposed to the Holocaust through any meaningful educational efforts. I wonder what conclusions children reach after playing this game. Do they understand the racial component of the camps? Can they place the “work camps” in the larger story of the Holocaust? Are they even aware of the rest of the story which wasn’t portrayed.

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