Remember when you were a kid and thought that a Nazi lived under your bed, so your parents had to scare it away? Maybe that was just me, but I know that at least one person still grew up with a fear of Ze Germanz, and that was Rabbi Micah Kelber, who has actually praised videogames and Call of Duty: World at War not only for their visceral content, but for their ability to help him fear Nazis less. Pretending to explode their heads like ripe watermelons will do that.
"Over and above their ease of use, story and visual appeal, video games can also become important cultural experiences when the creators make the world psychologically significant to the user," he explains. "By making a World War II video game that is more realistic, and with more opportunities to make choices than any previous one, software developer Treyarch has created a game that can provide deep insights about violence, history and the Nazis’ significance as psychological demons."
Kelber heaps praise upon Call of Duty: World at War, and discusses his feelings as a Jew playing the final stage, where the Russian forces storm the Reichstag: "As a Jew, being involved in virtually ending World War II allows you to experience the closest thing possible to killing the sense of victimhood created by the Holocaust. And you do it without actually hurting any real people. In fact, it’s so satisfying that when you get to shoot down the golden eagle on the Reichstag, while sniping headshots at flame-throwing Nazis, you simply don’t want the war to end. This is weird, of course, because the war’s end is the ultimate goal of the game, as well as your desperately fought aim in real life."
CoD's greatest achievement, however, is ending Kelber's fear of Nazis, which he explains: "One morning, I woke up extremely aware that I had just had a Nazi dream. No surprise, given that I wrote this review and played the game late into the night. But I was shocked that it did not scare me as it would have done in the past: The back of my neck was dry. The game had subconsciously flipped a switch. Although clearly there are still very real threats to Jews around the world, the feeling that Nazis were a threat to my existence was created by teachers and rabbis, rightly making sure that I knew my history. In truth, that specific anxiety was not real, but virtual. And I could vanquish it virtually, as well."
Go check the whole review out, as it's a terrific read and incredibly encouraging. It's always nice to see videogames get the respect they deserve, not least when a bloody Rabbi is giving it. Many thanks to Micah Kelber for a great piece of work on the power of gaming.