Buried among the patch notes for this months update to the popular international MMO World of Tanks was this little tidbit:
– Wittmann’s Medal substituted with Boelter’s Medal
It didn’t take long for people to notice it standing out in the midst of number crunching statistics changes around reload times and traverse angles. And the obvious question was: why? In the same manner, it didn’t take long for a few forum members (game updates are actually announced and detailed on the head developers blog first) to come over and explain why. You see, Wittmann was a Nazi.
As you can see, the normal game drama about updates took a radical real life turn at this point. Nobody was griping over who got nerfed and who was OP! To briefly unpack both sides of that argument, here’s a few of the highlights:
Those in favor of the change point out that:
1) WoT has always had a policy not allowing the promotion or encouragement of national socialism in any way. In the past, this rule has been enforced around Clans that have tried to take the name of SS Panzer units or anyone who utilized the pageantry or RP flavor of such a unit. Some people have pointed out the dual standard of having a medal named after arguably the most famous tank ace of the SS.
2) That Wittmann was not just a tanker who happened to be in a Nazi unit. He was in the Allgemeine SS from 1936 onwards. There is no evidence to suggest he was anything other than a true supporter of the Nazi party and its policies.
Those arguing against the change have pointed out:
1) The Soviet Guards units weren’t exactly angels themselves, and there is no evidence that any of the tankers who have elite medal’s named after them in the game committed war crimes directly.
2) Most of the war crimes committed by the SS were in fact done by the SS-Totenkopfverbände units, who were in charge of the concentration camps, and were in fact an independent unit that had its own command structure separate from that of the Waffen-SS. (If that’s confusing, basically it boils down to this – Wittmann was involved in the general SS organization, but when it split between the two above named units, Wittmann went with the front line army branch, not the political MP/Paramiltary branch directly responsible for carrying out the holocaust).
As of awhile ago, Overlord disable the comments section of his blog, which was rapidly descending into a firestorm of critique and name calling that went above and beyond the usual trolling. Probably a smart move on his part. But me…well, I think there is a worthy discussion to be had. Please add your two cents in, and feel free (you fellow bloggers) to weigh in on the discussion in your own realms as well, I’ll be sure to link them here.
For my part, I find the argument separating the tank aces themselves from atrocities committed by their respective armies and countries pretty compelling. I’m also not convinced that when one says “Michael Wittmann” it immediately conjures up images of war crimes or the holocaust. He was simply a good tank commander.
On the other hand, I am not Jewish, nor am I from Europe, or in particular from Russia or any of the other former states of the USSR. So while I am not personally touched or haunted by this, I can see that it would be possible that others were and are. And I supposed you could just chalk this up to good PR or marketing for Wargaming. After all, its a small, non-mechanical change to their game that has the potential to garner it more attention and acceptance in the European community, which is arguably a bigger market for them than us here in the US.