Saturday, 8 March 2014

History in the gaming industry

A new chinese video game features characters shooting Japanese prisoners of war, and I'm not joking when I say it's actually called 'Shoot the Devils.' (I think the Chinese nationalists are missing a bit of subtlety there.) The worst thing about this however, is that the creators behind the game urge players to "remember history." Oh dear.

Obviously it says a lot about the relationship between China and Japan, and how the legacy of the Second World War remains a touchy subject. Current debates over territorial claims are not helping the situation. This, as if we needed any more proof, shows how the past is inevitably woven into the present. How can anyone argue that history is irrelevant and should be forgotten? Everything we do in the present is shaped by past events. We, as individuals, are made from our ancestors, the way we live our lives and even in the way we think is all conditioned by what has gone before. Public history can be a dangerous beast, and it is often used and abused by politicians and nationalists, as in this example. On many occasions, the passage of time does not improve international relations. It will be interesting to analyse the popularity of the game in China and to see the response in Japan...

WW1 on the London Stage

The following article from Reuters is an interesting look at the World War One-inspired plays in London. Recently, the 'Blackadder' version of the war - i.e., soldiers being sent over the top as cannon fodder - has come under fire from historians (pun intended). They argue that the British army was fully aware of the huge death toll and desperately tried to prevent it. The introduction of tank warfare is an example of this (something I learned at the Tank Museum in Dorset, courtesy of my wonderful friend Felicity). This argument however, has not found favour in the public eye, as many prefer to view the First World War as a tragic, wasted conflict when compared to the 'just' Second World War. When politicians like Michael Gove wade in the debate, it does nothing but complicate the already tense divide between these two conflicting perspectives. The battle will rage on during the next four years, but it is important to look at both arguments. The 'Blackaddder' version may be more dramatic and popular but that does not mean it is right. Of course, to most in the entertainment industry, what matters is what sells.