A View from Atlas Park: The End of Facism?

CoH is gearing up towards the first ever non-beta server event – as eluded to in the current Paragon Times article, it’s focus is on the 5th Column. According to a rumour that I’ve seen floating around, the fall-out from this even will see the 5th Column removed from CoH.

As of this point, this is still a rumour, so take things with a grain of salt, okay? I saw it on this CoH thread that uses Vault thread as its main source.

This is a big step. The 5th Column (5C) are one of the basic villain groups in CoH, with basic meaning “part of the furniture”. From memory, once you hit level five the 5th Column are available to fight and hang around all the way up to lvl 40+ in some form or another. This villain group also ties in fairly tightly with the history of Paragon City – theoretically they’ve been hanging around since World War II with various schemes for conquest.

The main reason I’ve seen for the removal of the 5C is that CoH is due to be released in Europe. Certain countries (such as Germany) won’t allow the sale of materials that include Nazi themes, of which the 5C are linked to. It won’t be the first time that a game is changed to deal with these restrictions – the Wolfenstein series has also removed swastikas and other offensive items from their games for this market.

Most of the comments I’ve read have been pretty disparaging of the move. I think that some of these criticisms have been valid. Firstly, the 5C are a great villain group. They fill the paramilitary villain stereotype very well. And they are Nazis to boot. Everyone hates Nazis, so soundly thrashing large numbers of them is a lot of fun. Removing them from the game leaves a large hole, especially since we aren’t sure what would be used to fill it.

There is also the fact that any replacement probably won’t be as well accepted as the original. Imagine if Dr Vahzilok gave up on building meat golems and went back to his first love: dentistry. Any copycat zombie-orientated group that came to replace the Vahzilok would really look unoriginal. It would take a while to get over the loss, which I expect will happen with the rumoured loss of the 5C.

Secondly, it potentially disrupts the narrative of the gameworld. If the reason the 5C are being removed is for Europe release purposes, then all the stories that involve the 5C probably would have to go. The 5C couldn’t really be evolved into something else, because what can Nazism / facism evolve into? I don’t really think that a higher plane exists for such an ideology, so the 5C could no longer exist as we know it. The only way I can see things happening is for the 5C to splinter into a number of smaller paramilitary groups while dumping the Nazi theme. Of course, something would be needed to replace the Nazi ideology that currently motivates this group as a whole. It would be difficult to see the 5C replaced by another politically orientated villain group for a little while – the only other “big bad” political system there is communism, and the thought of all the Nazis becoming communists at the end of the event seems a little stupid to me.

If some group does replace the 5C, then they could theoretically take over some of the storylines, but it wouldn’t be the same. We’ve come to know what kind of threat the 5C represent, so any replacements would have to prove themselves (which takes time) as being worth the effort.

I have seen a few complaints that basically decry Cryptic for giving in to political correctness, or for censoring their product. This I can’t agree with. The big difference here is context: for North America, Nazis are either 1) blandly evil and used whenever a non-descript enemy group is needed for Indiana Jones et al to defeat, or 2) something to laugh at (“Ho-GAN!”) or 3) something to accuse those in authority of being. In Europe, Nazis were people who invaded countries, killed millions and created an ideology of hate that still exists today. Understandably, some people are very sensitive to the issue of Nazis, even in computer games. Cryptic / NCSoft wants to do business in Europe, so the right thing to do in this case is to remove the 5C from CoH.

Or perhaps Cryptic have just gotten tired of the 5C. Either way, the rumour is they go.

I’m watching with interest to see if this rumour is correct and how Cryptic handles replacing the 5C. Removing a major villain group from CoH is a big thing, and could be used as evidence that nothing is safe in terms of changes. I find that thought comforting in a mmog, especially since a lot of mmogs to date have been very stagnant in terms of game world changes. Cryptic haven’t shown themselves to suffer from the same malaise, with the concept of taking out the 5C possibly being the next evolution for CoH.

We’ll just have to wait and see…

David Shufon emailed me with the absolute definitive reason to have a secret identity in today’s superheroic world – to avoid legal action. I can picture it now: Superman flies in, saves a man from a forrest fire created accidentally by Firestorm, man sues Superman for personal injury and Firestorm for criminal negligence. Or he would, if he could ever serve them with the necessary legal papers!

So I was wrong. Secret identities DO serve a purpose and DO still belong for today’s heroes!

– UnSub [email protected] 20 October 2004

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