The Limits of Decency and Good Taste

I apologize in advance to anybody who was looking forward to it, but today there shall be no ‘Gaming on a Budget.’  It’s not that Ive run out of ideas (that’ll be my excuse for next week [I kid, we’ve got stories for years, like Marge becomes a robot…]), but I’ve developed a rather large ingrown hair in my ass regarding a certain necromancer.  I’m feeling the need to deal with that and eschew my normal responsibilities for the day.

Yeah, and my model still sucks too

You may know him as Heinrich Kemmler of Vampire Counts fame, but isn’t that phonetically just Heinrich Himmler?  Yeah, what the fuck Games Workshop?   How was that remotely necessary?  Sure this guy isn’t anything approaching new to the scene, but when I got my new VC book last night, I couldn’t help but be struck by the fact that he’s still in the book.  Why?  You’ve got a character named after one of the greatest war criminals of all time, The Reichsführer of the SS, you know, the piece of human garbage that ran the concentration camps and is directly responsible for possibly the greatest genocide seen in modern times.  You couldn’t just unleash Herr Ward on this situation to change his name and the fluff behind the first necromancer?  Were you worried that you might accidentally change his name to Adolf Fitler?  What the shit?

I’ve defended GW in the past on issues of Xenophobia and racism. You may recall one of my first articles on ‘Dick Move,’ where I defended them against some crackpot’s claims that Salamanders, having black skin and being scary/evil, typified a racist stereotype.  This bled into a debate about why there are no black people painted by the ‘eavy metal team.  I don’t want to relive this experience, but the gist of my argument on that one is that a) you’re crazy if you think the Salamanders are in any way shape or form a representation of the stereotypical ‘angry black man’- their skin isn’t even a natural black, it’s mutated and b) well b is a little complicated.  It goes something like this, though- art through time has been an imitation of life and one’s surroundings.  Playing the didgeridoo, for example, involves mimicking animal calls heard in the bush, painters paint familiar scenes and landscapes, and Einstürzende Neubauten bang on metal and play with power tools because these are the things that they hear and see.  With less than 2% of England’s population being black, I don’t find it surprising that the ‘eavy metal team’s idea of the galaxy isn’t exactly ethnically diverse (however if you really search, you will find a few models from the past that are in fact black or native American or female).  In short there is an unconscious drive in art to ‘paint/write/etc what you know’ that lies largely out of our hands and shouldn’t be construed as racist.

Making a conscious decision to create a character named after the leader of the SS, on the other hand, is not cool at all.  I get it, Himmler sent upwards of 9 million Jews, Poles, Russian POWs, Slavs, Romanians, handicapped persons, homosexuals, and even Jehova’s Witnesses to their deaths and Kemmler is a necromancer.  How bloody fucking clever!  A special shoutout goes out to the creators of The Dresden Files who also have a necromancer character named Heinrich Kemmler- way to be plagiarists and dick heads, nice one. 

Just to show that I’m not out on a quest to vilify GW, issues of this kind have been brought up regarding other games as well.  Infinity has come under fire for using racial and religious stereotypes to create its factions.  I don’t exactly fall into this line of thinking, but if they ever release a Haqq Islam character named Sodom Hyusseine, I might change my tune.  Historical wargames, such as Flames of War, are also problematic.  Actively wanting to play any army that was historically in the wrong (and I do play Germans in FoW) could easily be an indication of some significant personality flaws on the part of the player.

The entire institution of wargaming and roleplaying could really be suspect here.  This isn’t a ‘Dungeons and Dragons will make you kill your best friend’ type of argument, but something more real and profound- we, as players of most games, are glorifying violence.  Depending on one’s moral code, this could actually be deemed inexcusable.  There is never exactly a moral high ground in war.  Even playing on the side of ‘good’ means that you’re participating in a pact of violence and most likely a tradition of covered up, glossed over war crimes.  We self-righteous allies seem to forget, for example, that while we were upholding the principles of liberty in Europe and Asia during the Great War we sort of dropped bombs, conventional and nuclear, on a shit load of civilian non-combatants- on purpose.

dethtron as a gamer, artist’s rendering

But here we are, wandering off track again.  It’s good, though, I think we’ve hit on some key issues of the endorsement of immoral behaviors in wargaming.  This is a big topic, that I alone could not hope to fully deal with, so I’d like your input HoP readers.

Should GW have changed Heinrich Kemmler’s name?  Matt Ward certainly has changed fluff in the past, maybe the first necromancer should have gotten a new name.

Is it ok to want to play the villain?

Is the entire act of playing wargames an endorsement of violence?

Only time will tell.  I’ll see you in the comments.

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