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Unethical games

Today is game night in Bío Paradís, a cinema specialising in showing alternative movies and a really nice lobby where we play board games every Wednesday (and eat lots of popcorn).

We all bring different games we like. I finally managed to play Tikal, which I had since I was a kid, but for some reason the rules were in Dutch. Thanks to the internet this problem was solved. My flatmate really likes Pandemic and thankfully I do too, otherwise there might be some conflict in our house. Her boyfriend also got a new game for his birthday, called Colonial, which made some of us cringe and others shrug and say: "it is just a game".

In the game one is a "mighty" European power from (roughly) 15th to 19th century, trying to colonialise countries, exploit them for resources (one of which are slaves) and be the most "prestigious" of them all. The subject matter made me think:

When do games about past atrocities become socially acceptable?

If it were some sort of formula it would probably be:

Acceptance = time x current standing of victims

The colonisation period is apparently ok now, there are several "historical" games in the top 200 on board game geek set in this time where one gets to acquire slaves and use them to ones advantage. We also play a card game at game nights called "Guillotine" set in the French revolution where one competes to get to chop the head off the most unpopular noble. Mass execution is a joke if it has happened long enough ago.

Who is the victim?
When the first game about the war of annihilation in the second world war will appear in our western-centric society one will play Japan trying to annihilate China, not Germany - Poland. Another reason why games about the colonisation period and slavery are considered "ok".

My secondary question was : When will it be socially acceptable to make a game about the holocaust?

I googled a bit and found this. A German board game from 1936, where "the objective was to collect as many Jews as you could, and get them off the board".

Racist, but somehow cute

The game was heavily criticized at the time from Jewish societies for obvious reasons, but also in an SS paper because

The game trivialized the anti-Semitic Nazi policies and that the international press would use the game’s existence to make the policies look completely ridiculous.

The game failed, not because of politics though, but because it was really boring. Which is the third variable in the formula:

Acceptance = (time x current standing of victims)^playability

Because if we are having fun, we can justify a lot.

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