You might have caught last week’s stream on Attentat 1942, a Czech Full Motion Video Game about World War 2 made by Charles Games. A story driven by historical research, you try to unveil the history of your grandfather, who was arrested in the wake of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in 1942. The game has been out on Steam for a couple of years, and is scheduled to make the jump to mobile devices as well. However, that’s where Google comes in and disappoints us all.
For a game to be available on Google’s Play Store (the same goes for the Apple App Store), a review is necessary. This can be quite the hassle, especially in certain countries with laws against the depiction of Nazi symbols (such as Germany). However, it is not the first time that Charles Games has had to deal with legal battles regarding their game. Back in 2018, the game was the first game with Nazi symbolism to be officially released in Germany, with the approval of it’s governing body on Entertainment Software. You can read more on that story in this blog on Gamasutra by one of the devs.
Attentat 1942 excels in telling a gripping story of the occupation of Czechoslovakia during the war. It boasts a fascinating personal history, combined with the larger history of the region during the war. The story depends on certain moral dillemas and other difficult choices, which will influence the story. It is, at least for me, a textbook example on how to handle difficult histories such as the Nazi Occupation of Europe. And that story does contain Nazi symbolism, just like documentaries about the war would.
After having been released in Germany, and with the goal of the game in mind, you would expect Google not to make too big of a fuzz of the mobile release of the game. You’d be wrong. On two seperate occasions, Google rejected the game for the Nazi symbolisms in the game (at least in Germany, Austria, France and Russia). As you can read below in the Tweet and image, Google’s rejection was very frustrating for Charles Games. Not only because of the many hours of work, but also because the game is already available in Germany. Furthermore, it shows the struggle of those who want to tell stories about the war (and by doing so depict Nazi symbolism, but not in a bad neo-fascistic way).
This struggle ties in with a piece which appeared in the Bulletin a couple of weeks back. In a feature on Kotaku, Luke Plunkett argued that many video games completely shy over the horrors of the Nazis. You get to play the Nazis (in this case Plunkett talks about strategy games, but there are many other games where you can play as the Nazis), but the atrocities are often not represented in any way. But that’s what Attentat 1942 does focus on. It shows the horrors of living under Nazi occupation, a part of the war which many games just shy over.
It would just be nice if, for a change, studios could at least acknowledge the extreme mental gymnastics involved in letting us play as Germans but not Nazis, and write and design their world-conquering strategy games with this in mind.
It is therefore that Attentat 1942 can be of so much value. Not only to gamers, but for example for schools and students. I’d be over the moon if I was able to play such a game in my History classes. Whereas many histories about the Second World War focus on the bigger picture, the great battles and the political aspects, Attentat 1942 shows a more personal story which hits closer to home. It is also a great example for (those studying to be) historians on narrative, and how to tell great factual stories.
However, it is not all bad news. After both rejections, Charles Games got some major support on the internet. Many devs, followers and media shared the struggle of the company and voiced their opinions on the rejections. Thanks to the efforts of local (Czech) and international media, Google Czech has now contacted the devs, and are looking into the situation. Even though Charles Games does not want to get too excited, it is a step in the right direction. The game will launch on mobile devices anyway (where allowed). Let us hope for a change in course from Google so that people in Germany, Russia, France and Austria can also play the game on their mobile devices. And let us also hope for more games like Attentat 1942, as they have set the tone for games about difficult times in our history!