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Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


There are many scientific works written about how in the age of information technology it is easy to mislead the younger generation. But there isn’t practically any about how the historical consciousness of youth is influenced by modern computer games. Meanwhile, historians even more often faced by the fact that computer game developers distort the facts of Russian history. In which games is the history of the Battle of Stalingrad falsified and the information of the diaries of Joseph Goebbels used? Who tries to influence the policy of Russia and how to protect the truth in these conditions? The correspondent of FAN-TV together with the research associate of the Moscow Victory Museum Sergey Belov tried to understand it.

Sergey, you study computer games based on historical events. Tell us – who is engaged in their development and how, do these people resort to consultations with experts, for example, with military historians?

“Now computer games are very popular, not only in the youth environment. They are popular worldwide, and the developers of computer games, naturally, resort to the services of historians, they contact them as scientific consultants. One-two historians, as a rule, appear in the credits of these games. But, naturally, the views that are promoted by the historian are reflected in the game. And sometimes historians allow for certain distortions, sometimes deliberately, sometimes unconsciously. But there are a number of negative fakes about the history of the Great Patriotic War, about the role of the Soviet Union in the defeat of fascism.

If we take, for example, the game – or more precisely, the series of the games – ‘Call of Duty’, we will understand that in the 11 years that the games have existed more than 40 million copies were downloaded and licenses sold. If we assume that this figure should be in fact two-fold due to illegal downloads and the sale of counterfeit discs, we will understand that already hundreds of millions users perceive the information from these computer games.

The emotional binding to the character embeds the negative cliches that exist in the game, and when you try to talk to this person, challenging this or that thesis, they refuse to perceive it. For ‘one rifle for three‘, there is the game ‘Company of Heroes 2’. We see how Soviet troops go across the Volga. Soldiers are sent to fight without weapons. What does he do? He is compelled to flee for his comrades, waiting for one of the fighters to be killed, and then he will pick up his rifle.

What, in your opinion, guides the developers?

“In my opinion, the game developers wanted to show that the military leaders of the Soviet army had no military skills, that we won only due to the number of soldiers, who we sent to slaughter under Soviet machine guns. We see in the game ‘Call of Duty’: here it’s not even ‘one rifle for three’, here there is a glimpse of one rifle on one soldier, and then the other soldiers run. Here is the fourth soldier, fifth soldier, all of them go to attack without a weapon. Computer games are sometimes supported by negative cliches, the fakes that are in the movies. The example – in the 2003 movie ‘Enemy at the Gates’. ‘Call of Duty’ was also released in 2003. A number of themes in both the movie and the game has something in common. ‘Betray your own, after all, you are Russian’ – this phrase sounded in the movie, and the same idea appears in the game.”

“Here is a Soviet officer,” Sergey shows him on the screen, “and he kills the retreating soldier. Now pay attention: here is our officer, he is being killed by our sniper, who is the main character.

One more example is Hitler and Stalin’s comparison, an equilibration of these two historical figures for all the troubles that were brought by war. ‘In 1969 Hitler and Stalin, together as allies’ … Together as allies!”

Invaded Poland?

“Invaded Poland, quite right. And here is a screenshot of the game ‘Company of Heroes 2’. In the long segment you will hear the phrase ‘victory brought the beginning of new tyranny’. I.e., after Hitler’s tyranny – Stalin’s tyranny began.”

I wonder who those consultants are who advised such ideas to the developers?

“As official scientific consultants to this game we see Antony Beevor, who is a historian who wrote many works on the history of World War II. Beevor also used in his scientific works the diary entries of Goebbels. It is necessary to remember that Goebbels was the Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment of the Third Reich, and, respectively, Goebbels in his diaries wrote thoughts that he replicated in the millions, deliberately trying to distort facts, to explain to the people why they go to fight against other State. History is thus rewritten. For what? To rewrite proprietorship.”

Who is behind this? Who does it benefit?

“If we take the official point of view, all games have a commercial character, they are simply sold proceeding from the vision of the authors and developers. About 400 people take part in the development and promotion of one game. There is a huge team, which demands big financial expenses and administrative resources. And we understand that it is indeed beneficial for someone. In addition to there being a commercial project, there is also an ideological project, which forms the minds of tens of millions of people.”

And how to understand this difficult situation, where a parent wants to buy their child a computer game based on historical events? How to distinguish a correct computer game from a fake one, and is it possible to do this at the time of purchase?

“Actually, this is a very good, but difficult question. And we only should develop some, maybe, even recommendations for parents, for users. But it seems to me that it is good to read game reviews in advance, at least, before buying it. Well, it would be good to visit cultural centers with the child – such, as, for example, the Victory Museum or other museums of military history. It is necessary to do so-called vaccination against falsification. The person has to know history! If they know it, they will be able to independently understand – what’s the truth and what’s a lie.”

How it is possible to trace the arrival of such games on our Russian market today, and in general, at what stage does this need to be done – at the development stage? Or how it is possible?

“In my opinion, guns don’t fight against ideas (namely ideas sewn into computer games). Protective measures won’t help here. On the contrary, a ban will cause additional interest: what is forbidden, why? As another option – to create our own, but reliable, without distortions, without excesses, games based on historical events, including about the Great Patriotic War. The Young Guard can serve as one of such examples: how children, teenagers fought against fascism. In fact, it is possible to make a unique computer game where there are a lot of characters, there are a lot of missions, and they are based on historical events.”

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