LJ Drama – Role Playing Game Named “Kristallnacht” Causes Controversy

by Latoya Peterson

Cruising through my normal blog reading, I saw posts from Willow and Coffee and Ink about a Harry Potter role playing game (not affiliated with JK Rowling) named Kristallnacht.

The word rang a bell, but I didn’t quite remember what it meant. However, there is always Wiki:

Kristallnacht, also known as Reichskristallnacht, Reichspogromnacht, Crystal Night and the Night of Broken Glass, was a pogrom that occurred throughout Nazi Germany on November 9–November 10, 1938.

On November 7, 1938 a young German Jew, by the name of Herschel Grynszpan, enraged by his family’s expulsion from Germany, walked into the German Embassy in Paris and fired five shots at a junior diplomat. Two days later, the diplomat was dead and Germany was in the grip of skillfully orchestrated anti-Jewish violence. In the early hours of 10 November, an orgy of co-ordinated destruction broke out in cities, towns and villages throughout the Third Reich. A total of 91 Jews were killed in the incident. The consequences of this violence were disastrous for the Jews of the Third Reich.

Kristallnacht saw the destruction in a single night of more than a thousand Synagogues, the ransacking of tens of thousands of Jewish businesses and homes, and more than 30,000 Jewish men were rounded up and taken to concentration camps.[1] It marked the beginning of the systematic eradication of a people who could trace their ancestry in Germany to Roman times, and served as a prelude for the Holocaust that was to follow.

I checked out the first link to the actual game. It appears that the community responsible for the game has changed the name in response to the outcry – the game description now lists the title as hexennacht.

Still, I decided to discuss it here because of the very familiar nature of the conversation.

All my favorite “this isn’t racist” arguments are in full effect. Let’s dive in, shall we?

The first comment is launched by kdorian, who very simply states “I find the name of this to be very offensive.”

One of the gaming mods responds, saying:

We’re very sorry for any offense, we really, really are. We discussed the name for a while before deciding on it, and whether or not it would be offensive was one of the things we worried about, so we asked anyone we could think of if they thought it was a problem. The general consensus among those people was that, because there’s a parallel with the plot, it would be okay, but I can see that it’s not the case with everyone. We really are sorry, we don’t mean to offend anyone, we swear.

Hmm…this could be offensive, but we decided to go with it anyway. Excellent! One point.

kdorian then points out some issues with this line of reasoning, and mentions that this is an odd choice considering that Saturday was the day after Holocaust Memorial Day. The mods respond:

Oh wow, my co-mod didn’t even notice the proximity to Holocaust Memorial Day when she posted this. That was a very poor move on our part.

We did notice there were many parallels JKR drew between World War II and Grindelwald, but I definitely see what you are saying. It’s a hard and very real subject, which is why we spent so long working on the name, and asked so many people. Thank you for being kind and reasonable about it, though.

(Read: Thank you for engaging on our terms. We still don’t care.)

kdorian then offers to pay for the “rename token.” (LJ users, I have no idea what this is. Please feel free to enlighten me.) Another player, marieantoinette, comments (bold emphasis mine):

That’s really sweet and nice of you, but I’m sorry, we really have no interest in changing the name of our game because it coincides so well with our plot and the canon story. JK Rowling has related the Death Eaters to the Nazis and in the last book, the way things were handled by the ministry and the way that the muggleborns were treated were parrell to the way the jews were treated. Also, for a long time, people were wondering if maybe Hitler was the same as Grindelwald, while she has stated that he isn’t the same person, he had the same mindset. The canon in the Harry Potter world that we are based on is heavily influenced by factual events. We meant no harm, and we mean no offense, but real life influences art. By the same token, the Death Eaters and Voldemort are highly offensive fictional creations. The Christians churches have fought against the point of Harry Potter and it’s connection to magic. It’s all a matter of opinion and we’re sorry that it offends you.

So, in essence, we like it, fuck you. And two points for pointedly saying “we’re sorry it offends you.”

At this point, other commenters jump in to the fray:

lavendertook
5/3/08, 06:28 pm

Complaints about making fun of Jewish experience has no parallels to Christian fundamentalist attempts to sensor HP due to its celebration of and play with witchcraft–drop this comparison now.

I’ve been seeing ads for this community come up on my flist every few days and every time I’d cringe, but didn’t think to speak out until I saw other people speaking out this morning. It’s time for you to stop making me cringe and others despair if you’re serious about not wanting to offend and hurt people. You are offending and hurting people. JK Rowling knew how to handle the parallel’s she was drawing with the Holocaust without drawing offense–part of how she did that is by not appropriating the very terms of that experience.

If you wish to correct your mistake, take the token you are being offered and change this community’s name-because that name has serious meaning for many of us. Then work how you are referencing real events that hurt real people who are still living today into the thinking behind your role play writing, Good role play is interactive storytelling–don’t take this subject lightly if you’re going to write about it.

And for those of us who aren’t writing in your game but see this game’s title come up in our rpg promo communities, please respect our feelings, and change the name to something less painful for us.

tzikeh
5/3/08, 07:08 pm

The Christians churches have fought against the point of Harry Potter and it’s connection to magic.

… so? How does this have anything to do with the vile offense you’ve created and are perpetrating?

And you shouldn’t be sorry that it offends people; that’s bullshit. Doing something awful and saying “I’m sorry *you’re unhappy*” is not an apology; it’s blaming the other person for taking offense rather than apologizing for YOUR ACTIONS, which are the problem.

Trust me, if you think you’re not changing the name of this community, you need to take a look at what’s churning around you. You are *beyond* vile.

So what was the response?

No, it’s saying that we understand how some people might take offense, and if they take offense we ARE sorry that we offended them, because the intent WASN’T offense, but we had very specific reasons why we chose the name, which is why we won’t change it.

Everyone has their own opinion and everyone is entitled to it, but we never asked anyone who takes offense to it to join our game and no one is under any obligation to join it, if they think so poorly of the name.

In sum: What part of “fuck you” don’t you understand?

Now, at this point, the floodgates open and a lot of different commenters weigh in to condemn the decision and the reactions by the mods.

Then marieantionette comes back for the quadruple racist score!

Yeah, been enlightened thanks. I’ve always had a deep interest in WW2. I’ve been scarred from videos on the holocaust when I was only 10 and forced to watch them. I understand the severity of what happened. I have jewish friends who have moved on and do not dwell, and jewish friends who know that we mean no harm by the game and don’t take offense.

I’m not a mod, but I support the mods and their decision for the name fully, because unlike so many others I am not going to dwell on the past and harbor ill feelings towards what happened. It’s been nearly 70 years. It isn’t a matter of not respecting the dead. We didn’t name the game “Auschwitz”, we named it after a night in history when something very horrible “began”, but the holocaust does not singularly come down to that one night.

But I’m also rather open minded and understand the difference between plays on words and fiction. It wasn’t trivialized. It all comes down to the main character, with the connections that it has to that war. Enough people around us have said that it doesn’t bother them. They’re able to look past it and see it for what it is. It is your decision to take it so seriously.

If the mods change the name, it is entirely up to them, but being harassed to do so, is no better than what you’re claiming we’re doing.

The breakdown:

1. Yeah, I already know what you’re talking about, so shut up! I’m too smart to be racist!

2. My best friend said she’s not offended! So there.

3. Fuck, it’s the past, get over it already!

4. You’re being oversensitive.

At this point, I am just amused. Seriously. Here I was, thinking it was just black people who get told to “get over” slavery (with no mention of most of the things that happened afterward and modern ramifications). Now I find out that Jewish people get it too. Hot damn, I need to invite all the Jews I know to a “we’re so not over this” party.

The commenters really pile on after that – feel free to check out the rest of the conversation.

However, I’ll end here with my favorite response quote:

machineplay
5/3/08, 08:45 pm

No, you’re not sorry. Being sorry implies a willingness to make right. And, you’re all obviously not. You did mean to offend people; you knew you were going to offend people. You just hoped to silence them with pitiful, sophomoric disclaimers. It doesn’t work that way.

You took the title of one of the most horrible, pivotal events in human history and used it for the purpose of your own entertainment. You knew you were going to hurt people and you simply didn’t care, because it was more fun and cool to use a ‘dangerous’ word for your game. Your GAME. Your pretend game based on a fictional world, that you didn’t even invent. You decided to use people’s pain and anguish and horror to have fun.

Stop saying you’re sorry, because you aren’t. You don’t have any remorse, or guilt, or intent to make reparations to the people you’re harming. You are appropriating the destruction of human lives and the horror that followed so that you can have more fun in your GAME. This is who you are. You are that kind of people.