Luke Bernard had a checklist of precautions to take before opening the doors to his virtual Holocaust museum in the video game Fortnite.
No shooting. No screaming. No break dancing.
These absences defy the norm in one of the world’s most popular games, where players can dress up as googly-eyed hamburgers to exchange gunfire with John Wick and Batman. But Epic Games, keen to keep as many people on its Fortnite servers as possible, Real estate has opened up in his virtual world Almost anyone with an idea.
Now the publisher, who was not involved in the development of the Holocaust museum but advised Barnard on how to follow its content guidelines, is himself scrutinizing sensitive issues that could be exposed in public relations with a single misstep. The risk of historical misrepresentation has also worried Holocaust educators, although many support efforts to reach younger audiences.
“With the rise of Holocaust denial and other forms of anti-Semitism, it is important that new generations around the world learn the truth about the Holocaust,” Sarah J. Bloomfield, director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, said in a statement
“Online opportunities can help advance that goal,” he continued. “In a time of declining trust overall, museums—because they display authentic items—are still trusted sources of information. Maintaining that trust requires strict adherence to historical accuracy.”
After opening his virtual museum to the public this week, Barnard welcomed The New York Times A Tour of Forgotten Voices, which promises to teach viewers “about the Jewish members of the resistance who saved Jewish lives during the Holocaust”. His avatar resembled that of Spider-Man, and a few curious players roamed the gallery with their own get-ups and names like Doctor Lama Lord.
The architecture of the museum resembles a modern mansion outside of Miami with large windows and a reflective marble floor. Outside a small lobby, the exhibit begins with information about Kristallnacht, the 1938 attack on Jews in Nazi Germany that is widely recognized as the beginning of the Holocaust.
“Hate is on the rise around the world and I think we need tools to make people more empathetic,” Bernard said during the Zoom call, wearing sunglasses and puffing from a vape. He noted that millions of dollars have been spent on Holocaust museums, but Only 20 percent of Americans made a visit.
Most of the photos and placards inside the Fortnite museum focus on lesser-known aspects of the Holocaust — where nearly 6 million Jews were killed — as well as individuals who may have escaped the lens of a traditional institution. Bernard, 37, devoted parts to the Tripolitania riots (one of the bloodiest attacks against Jews in North Africa) and Willem Arondius (a member of the Dutch resistance against the Nazis).
But the information in the museum is limited to a few short sentences about each subject, and some text, including a summary about Arondius, is pulled from Wikipedia entries.
Bernard, who has worked in the gaming industry for more than a decade, confirmed that he used Wikipedia and said, without elaborating, that he double-checked that information with other sources; This year, he was released A game called The Light in the Darkness which focuses on educating young people about the Holocaust.
Epic spokesman Alan Cooper said All projects created in Fortnite — which includes an accompanying map ice dragon and a Jail Breakout – was subject to God’s rules And Content Guide. The company helped Bernard legally vet the content, which could not be gory or disturbing, but he was responsible for the claims and information contained within the museum.
“We regularly review and update these rules based on the continued growth and development of our ecosystem,” Cooper said.
Epic’s decision to work closely with Barnard comes months after the Anti-Defamation League Said company policy Holocaust deniers deserve an “F” grade because of Nazi-related usernames. An Epic spokesperson said the grade does not reflect the company’s work to remove usernames that violate its rules, and that it uses automated tools and human moderators to prevent hate speech and abusive language.
In a statement about the in-game museum, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said, “Until the game industry can change the norms of hate and abuse in online multiplayer games, we cannot see these types of experiences as a real alternative to more traditional forms of Holocaust education. toward.”
Traditional Holocaust museums have cautiously supported Barnard, who was Harassed on social media by Holocaust deniers And after white supremacist Nick Fuentes announced his Fortnite project. Other experts pointed to past controversies when serious topics were addressed within Fortnite.
An official event commemorating the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 2020 allows users See photos from the civil rights era And watch his “I Have a Dream” speech. But King’s message was attached to the default loading screens for all Fortnite players which included the message “Aim for the head!” and players were able to use emotions that allowed them to dance and whip. (Emote ability was later Disabled by Epic in experience.).
more Eight million players was present at the event, Epic said. According to the National Park Service, the original King Memorial in Washington receives about 3.3 million visitors each year.
Fortnite has 70 million monthly active players, and some Holocaust educators are hopeful that Voice of the Forgotten can be a blueprint for getting young people where they belong: in the gaming world.
“How do we meet this next generation that grew up online?” asked Jacob Ari Labendz, director of the Gross Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Ramapo College in New Jersey.
Labendz said that while the museum exhibits lacked context, they provoked important questions. “He is forcing anyone who comes to the museum to understand that the Holocaust is not just a European story but a global story,” Labendz said.
Without attendance figures, it’s too early to say what the museum’s impact will be, but Barnard says Holocaust museums have reached out to appreciate his efforts.
“You have to think about the young people,” he said. “I wanted to show positive stories of resistance leaders so they would have someone to look up to.”