"We have to keep including Nazis as villains - in fact, we have to do so more - but only in their horrible and disturbing entirety.”
It reminded me of a similar discussion I read in a newspaper many, many years ago, regarding 'Allo 'Allo, of all things, where the conclusion was that the best way to undermine Nazis was to make them look like buffoons.
It's something I've been thinking about a fair bit recently, because I've been watching the TV show Preacher, on Amazon. In that, Adolf Hitler appears as a character - albeit one doomed to spend eternity in Hell - but his portrayal is one that is weirdly sympathetic... and sort of pathetic.
I've not reached the end of the series yet - so maybe it's going to show that his gentle demeanour was all an act - but it's a brave move to make in the current social climate. Of course, two of the people responsible for putting Preacher on TV are Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg - who aren't exactly not-Jewish - so... fair enough. The anti-semitism they've no doubt encountered over their lives has earned them that right.
Inevitably, Kirk's piece got a lot of backlash from - well - those who think we should stop bringing up the Nazis, because the past is the past, and politics have no place in video games, and video games are escapism, and blah-blah-blah.
I probably - hopefully - don't need to point out why these perspectives are wholly wrong-headed in this day and age, why video game creators have every right to put political discussion into their games, and why anyone saying that Nazis should be left in the past are completely on the money, but also deluded if they're not aware that the Nazis themselves haven't exactly left the whole "being a Nazi" thing in the past.
Off the back of Preacher, I've been wanting to read a book about Hitler, and last night I found myself looking for one on Amazon.
Hitler has become an iconic figure - indeed, an iconic figurehead for some - and we tend to forget that behind the funny moustache, the foam-flecked ranting, and the, y'know, World War 2/genocide thing, there was a human being. Clearly one of the worst human beings who ever lived, but Hitler was just one man. He was an opportunist who saw the prevailing societal winds, identified a gap in the market, and stepped in to give his people what they wanted. He wasn't a man overburdened with an excess of morality.
And yes, I could be talking about Donald Trump there.
I'm fascinated - nay, obsessed - less with the behaviour of the current US president as I am with how he got like that. Indeed, how so many ill-suited people in positions of power get there.
I mean, look at our leaders in this country. Look at Boris Johnson. There's no question that he is someone who shouldn't be let within a mile of political office, and yet... there he is. Another opportunist who wants power for the sake of power, because he thinks that's the only thing that's going to plug that chasm in his psyche.
The psychology of our leaders is what we should be looking at as much as what they say. Why do they want that job? What is it they want out of it? Are their motivations truly selfless, or are they driven by faulty wiring? Did they get there simply because they were the best at shouting and being intimidating?
Even Jeremy Corbyn (though I find his political leanings more palatable than the alternatives) seems driven more by long-held inflexible beliefs - that have become part and parcel of his entire self-identity - than an attitude that is fluid enough to move with world around him.
Far too often, it seems to me, the people in positions of power - be it political, managerial, whatever - are the worst candidates for the job purely because they want that job in the first place.
I mean, do we really believe that Donald Trump really has any sincere convictions? I don't. I just think he's a messed-up individual, with any number of psychological conditions, who just wants to be the most important, most powerful, person in any given situation.
From what I can tell, he craves respect, craves attention, and craves being right. He's the sort of person who says something, and then will never, ever, back down - no matter how wrong he's proven to be - because he's so achingly insecure. He can't admit when he's wrong, because that would show weakness.
Inside, you can bet that he's terrified all the time.
For me, this is the only thing that was missing from Kirk's brilliant piece, and the discussion around Nazis in video games - and, indeed, from the depiction of Nazis in video games as a whole. Simply demonising Nazis and the far-right isn't enough to defeat them. We have to understand why they're like they are.
We have to understand that behind the beliefs are human beings. They weren't born that way; they're a product of where they came from, of the society they live in, and the people around them. It's not about sympathising, or sitting down for a chat over a cup of tea, but I remain a firm believer that you can't just get rid of Nazis by punching them in the face, no matter how funny and satisfying that might be.
There's a reason surgeons don't treat cancer by doing karate on it. You have to eradicate a problem completely - or at least try to - otherwise you drive it into the shadows, where it'll be waiting for its moment to reassert its dominance. Similarly, you can't just bury problems in a marriage. You can't shout your way out of them. You can leave, certainly, and end it... but that isn't a solution when it comes to society, where we have no choice but to live together.
Or, look at it another way, unless you grab a weed by its roots it's only going to grow back. You can't simply pluck at the leaves.
Video games portraying the Nazis as evil - or, slightly more troublingly, as evil zombies - does, as Kirk McKeand points out in his piece, risk turning them into caricatures. But I also think it's not enough to simply depict the evil actions of the Nazis, and decry their ideology as a real bad thing.
The best movie bad guys always think they're the hero, and that's the same with fascists. They don't think they're bad, or wrong. Despite the fact that it's glaringly obvious to the rest of us. The best way to undermine them, to really grab them by the roots. It's to expose them for what they really are; scared, or opportunists, or broken in some way. Exposing that reflects it back on them. It diminishes a monster's power.
As counterintuitive as it feels, if video games really want to help, they need to do something unthinkable. They need to somehow find a way to show the world that Nazis are people too.
Frankly, there's nothing more horrible, disturbing, or scary than the inner workings of a human being.