A new online game lets the player stomp ‘Covidiots’ – those who oppose lockdowns and mask mandates. As scapegoating dissidents becomes ever more socially acceptable, those who ignore history are making us all repeat it.
Scoring points for flattening small children who are demonized as walking contagions? Physically assaulting a neighbor for seeking fresh air during lockdown? What sounds like a sick social experiment is also an online game financed by German public broadcasting fees.
In ‘Corona World,’ a recent offering on the German taxpayer-funded ‘Funk’ gaming platform, the user plays a nurse tasked with shopping for groceries in a world fraught with coronavirus hazards, from small children they’re told are “highly infectious” (never mind that science has indicated the virus mostly leaves kids alone) to joggers and “party people” selfishly spreading the virus while trying to stay healthy and enjoy life, respectively (how dare they!).
In lo-fi gameplay evoking old-school titles like Super Mario Brothers, the player scores points for murdering their fellow citizens by jumping on them (merely avoiding the children and party people gets no points). The player need not kill everyone, of course – those citizens obediently leaning out their windows and clapping (over graffiti that translates to “thanks, Merkel!”) are passed over.
Not only has there been no call to remove the game from the Funk platform, which German public broadcasters ZDF and ARD launched in 2016 to “inform, instruct, and entertain” the vital 14-to-29-year-old demographic, but the German media establishment has barely commented on its existence. One can only imagine the firestorm that would result if someone published a game in which the protagonist ran around curb-stomping mask-wearing nurses, police officers, or central-Asian migrants – especially if a single euro of German taxes had gone to pay for it.
Bohemian Browser Ballett, the group responsible for this sick entertainment, categorizes its work as satire. However, looking at the group’s other corona-related efforts, a similarly humorless video titled “Corona saves the world” praises the virus for taking out the elderly, the diseased, and Americans and thus saving the environment, while a segment set in medieval times takes a whack at the hoary “anti-vaxxer” pinata. It’s clear the joke, if there is one, is on the audience.
Indeed, BBB seems to direct most of their ire at those who reject “state propaganda,” reducing dissenters to two-dimensional caricatures who value their “freedom” (a word only uttered with the most withering sarcasm) over people’s lives. They appear to take it personally that people with access to an entire world of information are not content to swallow the flimsy excuses doled out by official sources to explain why their increasingly oppressive reality does not match the democratic paradise they’re told they live in.
Corona World isn’t the first time the media establishment has openly endorsed the dehumanization of coronavirus dissenters, of course. From celebrating punching and choking “corona doubters” and “anti-maskers” to reveling in the deaths of “virus deniers” and dismissing lockdown resisters as “covidiots,” we’re told those who refuse Covid-19 control measures are actually the psychopaths – or maybe just stupid. Whatever they are, we – assuming “we” obey the rules – are better than them.
But one expects Germans to have some historical awareness that dehumanizing entire groups of people can lead to unimaginable brutality. They have World War II history drilled into their heads from an early age, after all, and are constantly reminded they were the Bad Guys.
As we’re expected to dutifully “mask up” even as science remains inconclusive on the practice, and undergo coronavirus tests that even health authorities admit don’t work, it’s important to keep in mind that those who can make you set aside rationality in favor of conformity can – given enough influence – make you commit atrocities. How long will it be until we’re expected to actually commit violence against our fellow citizens for refusing to submit to an ever-growing Kafkaesque array of arbitrary rules?
Earlier this month, SPD politician Aziz Bokurt called for “Covidiots” to be deported. It’s a very slippery slope from here.