Slegehammer Games announced its Call of Duty: WWII first-person shooter today, and it acknowledged that in multiplayer combat, players will be able to fight as German soldiers. That’s a move that could stir some controversy, but Sledgehammer said it is trying to handle the topic in as respectful a way as it can.
In World War II games, such uncomfortable questions always come up, and they underscore how games based on serious historical subjects can be particularly touchy.
“It’s a tough one,” said Glen Schofield, cofounder of Sledgehammer in Foster City, California, in an interview with GamesBeat.
Michael Condrey, cofounder of Sledgehammer, also said in an interview, “Call of Duty multiplayer has always rested on having two factions, two known factions, in this case the Allies and the Axis. The Axis were primarily Germans in Europe. You’ll play as an Axis character in multiplayer. Again, we’re not shying away from that, but we’re also not celebrating that. We don’t want to encourage any like-minded behaviors that would be toxic to our community.”
Other games have enabled players to play German soldiers in the past, such as Company of Heroes, Panzer General, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and Battlefield 1942. Most of the time, such games don’t raise much concern, as they promote a historical point of view, rather than a political one.
Clearly, Slegehammer deliberated about the matter, and it chose to proceed, but with caution.
Schofield said, “We also make a distinction between the SS and the German regular army. We have a moment in the game, an important moment, where a German soldier helps you. Later on you’re trying to rescue a German family, a mother and her daughters. You don’t want to see them hurt. There’s a humanity that we read about a lot that we wanted to get in there. We didn’t want to portray people purely as monsters.”
Schofield said that the company’s intention is to always treat the historical facts with respect.
“It’s a north star for us. We’re going to be respectful. We’re going to tell the story. It’s a direction for us to follow. It’s the same with any of our games. We always have that north star that tells us where we’re going,” he said.
Condrey added, “It’s a delicate balance that the team embraced. Out of respect, you can’t shy away from some of these issues. Out of respect, you can’t focus on them in a way that feels wrong either. We do touch on some powerful topics, the realities of what happened in the ‘40s in North America, and the atrocities that happened in WWII. But always through that lens of respect and getting it right.”