Earlier this week, several people on Twitter voiced their discomfort with what they perceived as Nazi imagery in LUFTRAUSERS, and the belief that you play as a Nazi pilot in our 2D dogfighting game.
We do have to accept that our game could make some people uncomfortable. We’re extremely sad about that, and we sincerely apologise for that discomfort.
The fact is that no interpretation of a game is ‘wrong’. When you create something, you leave certain implications of what you’re making. We can leave our idea of what it is in there, and for us, the game is about superweapons. We think everybody who plays LUFTRAUSERS can feel that.
But even more so in an interactive medium, we do have to accept that no way of reading those implications is ‘false’ – that if someone reads between the lines where we weren’t writing, those voids can be filled by the player, or someone else. If we accept there’s no wrong interpretation of a work, we also have to accept that some of those interpretations could not be along the lines of what we’re trying to create.
From our perspective, we do not cast our player as a Nazi pilot. LUFTRAUSERS is a dogfighting game very much inspired by a very specific century in the history of mankind. Somewhere between the 1900’s and the 1980’s, there was a period in which military intelligence was capable of determining whether an opposing military force was working on secret weapons, but not quite what those weapons were.
The first time this really was a problem in our modern history was during the First World War, and it continued well throughout the Second World War and the Cold War. Only in the last decades, humanity has become capable of fighting such ‘fantastic fears’ with an even better capacity to spy upon our fellow humans.
As many of you may know, we’re fascinated by the idea of unexplored truths. We prefer older science-fiction, because that’s when people still dreamt that under the clouds of Venus, you’d find dinosaurs and prehistoric people. Technology hadn’t quite spoiled the boring reality of the world yet. We were attracted to a world in which the technology clearly didn’t exist, but people feared submerging warplanes, because those tasked with exploring the world told them those probably existed. There are stacks of documents describing increasingly fantastic weaponry that never existed.
We’re talking the age of fear for mind control, floating sky fortresses, orbital rays, weaponised dolphins, cryptography and submerging warplanes.
For LUFTRAUSERS we wanted to place players in one of those superweapons. To achieve that, we needed the player to exist on the side we’d be spying on for it to make sense narratively. When we started out with the project our internal pitch for the style was something along “Superweapon dogfighting in a world with World War II-era Thunderbirds”.
For us, there was never a question that LUFTRAUSERS takes place during a fictional and/or alternative reality conflict between the ‘good guys’ and an undefined foe that we were spying on. It takes place somewhere between the Second World War and the Cold War, or in an alternative reality in the ten to fifteen years after the Second World War. The player is part of an undefined enemy force that was not on ‘our’ side during the six or seven decades in which military intelligence was effectively telling us to prepare for a laser-equipped hoverboat assault. You’re not playing any existing enemy force, not the Nazi’s, not the Japanese, not the Soviets, not any force that existed. It was always ‘some country we’d be spying on’, and we based our materials on the various countries we actually were spying on.
We wanted to be genuine about the timeframe that inspired the universe in the game, and that means that yes, there were some stylistic cues we took from World War II to construct this enemy force, as well as from characters, aesthetics and technology from World War I, the Cold War and the smaller conflicts during this timeframe. For the technology, we were inspired by things that would exist in a world in which the documents we were inspired by were true. For the characters, we took the idea of puppets from Thunderbirds and dressed them in exaggerated outfits.
What we made is a 2D dogfighting game about being the best fighter-pilot in the world, flying a superweapon in a Thunderbird meets World War II-era aesthetics. It’s not about good or evil. It’s not about World War II. It’s not about any real conflict or faction; we made a game about superweapons in the era in which they could’ve existed.
Each interpretation of a cultural artefact is a reflection of not only the creator, but also of what the user cares about, what they find important and what shaped them. We wouldn’t dare to fault people for finding the atrocities of the Second World War important. It is important. We agree it’s important, and there are important lessons for us in what happened. We need to remember what happened, we need to commemorate the victims and we need to ensure nothing even remotely like it occurs ever again.
Having been born and raised in the Netherlands, we are extremely aware of the awful things that happened, and we want to apologise to anybody who, through our game, is reminded of the cruelties that occurred during the war.