The Swastika and Gaming

The equilateral cross symbol has been used by various civilizations and organizations around the world and has different meanings to different people. While there is no single defining usage, the symbol is widely attributed to the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers' Party), commonly known in English as the Nazi Party. It is in this context that the symbol conveys dark and emotionally charged issues as it is generally associated with the advancement of the Aryan race and ethnic cleansing.

The German and Austrian postwar criminal code makes the public display of the symbol (and other related variants) against the law with scholarly reasons being the sole exception. The extent at which the German Bundestag have pursued this matter has reached absurd levels, such as in the targeting of anti-fascist groups for displaying imagery with the symbol crossed out, discarded or otherwise rejected in the thematic of the message being presented by the opposition.

Video games have treaded on both sides of the fence, with the majority of games erring on the side of caution (and profit) by removing the symbol from any game related texture, packaging or advertising. In many respects these games that avoid the symbol altogether replace it with a generic Iron Cross styled image, which may or may not be an accurate representation of the unit portrayed.

This presents a problem for games that allow for user modification of files, such as the arm patch in Rainbow Six Raven Shield, and more recently Call of Duty: Black Ops, where players are allowed to customize their gamer tags to represent a variety of symbols, including a swastika. While the ability exists, if a complaint is lodged against the gamer, Microsoft is on record as stating that they will ban that player from the Xbox Live game service, fundamentally quashing that person’s right to free speech.

Steel Panthers: World at War - Generals Edition

$49.99 from Matrix Games

The symbol is in the game, but suppressed in some promotional material media.

45th Infantry Division

The symbol was used prior to the 1930's and was a tribute to the Native American population in the southwestern United States.

Fall Weiss

Wastelands Interactive

The symbol is in the game, and not suppressed in promotional material media.

Thankfully for the Germans, the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice of Germany) ruled in 2007 that the usage of crossed-out symbols were "clearly directed against a revival of national-socialist endeavors" and put an end to the hyper-overreaction by the police in the targeting of anti-fascist groups.

NBA Live 1909

These ballers are not skinheads.

Video games are art, and this is settled law in some countries. Whether this enters the sphere of “scholarly reasons” as an exception to the Strafgesetzbuch is another argument, for another time.

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