“Puppy Hitler” offensive to some people.

Posted by (twitter: @csanyk)
December 15th, 2012 1:08 pm

Go figure, you make a game about being a villain, and it offends people.

I’ve decided to suspend development of my game idea for “Puppy Hitler”.

This is hard for me, because I do not believe that the game idea was in any way anti-semitic, but I have a Jewish friend who has relatives who were in the Holocaust, and she asked that I not make this game, and I’m respecting her wishes.

This is also difficult for me because, normally, I am very anti-censorship, and I enjoy art with provocative, controversial messages which some may find offensive.  While I personally hold that there was nothing offensive about the message I intended to put into the game, I can appreciate that the subject matter is something which people are still sensitive to, so I will try to see if I can come up with another idea for my game.

Hitler has been a target of ridicule in American popular culture since at least the 1940’s, with lampoons by Bugs Bunny and Spike Jones and his City Slickers, on through Hogan’s Heroes and Mel Brooks’ The Producers, and, more recently, South Park, and catsthatlooklikehitler.com, and any number of 4chan memes, and on and on,  and it was in this tradition that I put forward my idea for my game.  But for some people, I am reminded, the mere mention of Hitler’s name is too painful.  I feel truly sorry for those people, because you can’t un-happen the past, and avoiding bringing up the subject doesn’t change what happened.  But I also do not want to cause them to be reminded against their wishes of things that they would rather not think about.

Because the terrible news about Sandy Hook reached me just before the theme for LD25 was announced, my intent with this game was to create a villain who was, ultimately, harmless.  By reincarnating Hitler into a puppy, I meant only to ridicule him, and to take away all the power he had to hurt people.

If I had continued the game, what you would have seen is a mean little puppy trying to be tough and scary, and all the people he is trying to scare look at him and go “Oh, look at the puppy!  So cute!” and pet him fearlessly, ignoring his aggressive posture, and showing him to be truly powerless, all bark and no bite.  His hate ignored, and able to gather no followers, he has no power, for even though he is the reincarnation of Hitler, to everyone else he is just a puppy.  By the end of the game, their kindness would have extinguished the hate in Puppy Hitler’s heart, and in time the evil spirit of Hitler would have been obliterated by the power of puppy love and Jewish kindness.

So, I’m sorry for those of you who might have understood the game as it was intended and agreed with its spirit, but won’t be able to play it now, and I am sorry for those of you who may have been offended by the idea of such a game.

I’m going to try to come up with another idea for a game, but since it’s 3pm on Saturday and I have no idea what to do now, I’m not sure that I’ll complete anything this time.  And I’m sorry for that, too.

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6 Responses to ““Puppy Hitler” offensive to some people.”

  1. CaptainLepidus says:

    Why did you mention it to your friend? Honestly, that was the only mistake you made. I’m not saying you should “lie” to her or anything…but honestly making fun of Hitler to a Jewish person probably wasn’t the best idea.

    I think you should still make the game. Or at least, it doesn’t have to be about Hitler – make it about some other famous villain. Darth Vader? I dunno.

  2. littleball says:

    Have you thought of using what you’ve done, and just removing the reference?

    Well done for being sensitive, but don’t give up!

  3. csanyk says:

    CaptainLepidus: I don’t hide the fact that I do Ludum Dare from anyone, and my friend happens to be a game developer who follows my work, so that explains how they found out about it.

    I don’t pretend to understand every bit of their perspective at this time, but it’s certainly the case that Hitler has been made fun of in front of (indeed, by) Jewish people, and while there’s always a certain amount of controversy about it, I don’t think that it’s taboo.

    littleball: I have thought of that, and I’m still considering it. I think that it really weakens the message I was going for to make the puppy be “just” a puppy to start out with. I wanted the puppy to start out as Hitler, the worst person ever to live in the whole of human history, and become a nice puppy by the end through his interaction with the Jews he tries without success to antagonize. I think if you replace the culturally loaded terms with “safe” proxies, it just waters down the whole thing and makes it seem like I’m afraid to say what I really wanted to say.

    In terms of play mechanics, the game is still viable, even with the story completely gutted and the dramatic elements replaced. But for this game, to me, as the creator, it was more about the message I wanted to convey, and the mood I wanted to create, and the art resources, than it was about the mechanical system I was creating to support it.

    So, I’m not sure what I’ll do at this point. I’m going to try to brainstorm some ideas but perhaps if I can think of nothing better, I’ll recycle this into a watered down version without Hitler or Jew references.

  4. Scott Baker says:

    That’s too bad. Hope you can re-use your code.

    The hard part is I am sure there will be even more offensive material found in the completed games. My first thought after reading this is that someone out there will probably make a game with reference to the recent school shootings just to get the “too soon” comments. Maybe not, we’ll see.

    • csanyk says:

      Indeed. Well, I hope that doesn’t happen, or if it does that the game is able to drive home a thoughtful point about the incident, and isn’t simply exploitative and going for shock value. I believe that games can take on serious topics, and I believe that humor can be good while being controversial or even tasteless.

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