Fortnite has a Holocaust museum for players

Before you can open the doors of your virtual Holocaust museum in a video game FortniteLuc Bernard had to take a number of precautions.

Shooting is prohibited. Shouting is prohibited. forbidden to dance brakedance.

The inability to perform these actions is against the usual rules of one of the world’s most popular video games, in which players can dress up as doe-eyed hamburgers to trade shots with John Wick and Batman. However, Epic Games, in an effort to keep people on their game servers, Fortnite as much as possible, he has made real estate in his virtual worlds available to almost anyone with an idea.

Now the company, which was not involved in the development of the Holocaust museum but advised Bernard on how to follow the rules for its maintenance, is forced to check sensitive issues that, if the slightest mistake can be a public relations problem. The risk of spreading historical inaccuracies also worries Holocaust educators, although many support the attempt to reach a younger audience.

In a statement, Sarah J. Bloomfield, director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, said: “With the rise of Holocaust denial and other forms of antisemitism, it is important that new generations around the world learn the truth about the Holocaust. Holocaust.

“Online opportunities can help achieve this goal,” Bloomfield continued. “In a time of generally eroding confidence, museums – because they display genuine exhibits – are still reliable sources of information. Maintaining this confidence requires strict adherence to historical accuracy.”

After his virtual museum opened its doors to the public last week, Bernard hosted The New York Times’ “Voices of the Forgotten” tour, which promises to tell visitors “about the heroes who saved the lives of Jews during the Holocaust, as well as the Jewish Resistance.” “. His avatar was dressed as Spider-Man and some curious players wandered into the galleries with their outfits and names like DoctorLlamaLord.

The architecture of the museum is reminiscent of a modern mansion on the outskirts of Miami, with large windows and reflective marble floors. After a small lobby, the exhibition begins with information about crystal night (Night of Broken Glass), 1938 attacks on the Jewish community in Nazi Germany, generally considered to be the beginning of the Holocaust.

“Hatred is on the rise all over the world and I think we need tools to make people more empathetic,” Bernard said by Zoom phone. He wore sunglasses when he smoked. He noted that hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on Holocaust museums, but only 20 percent of Americans have ever visited them.

Most of the images and posters inside the museum are in Fortnite they focus on the lesser-known aspects of the Holocaust (during which some six million Jews were killed), as well as numbers that might have gone unnoticed in the eyes of the mainstream institution. Bernard, 37, devoted sections to the Tripolitania riots (one of the bloodiest attacks on Jews in North Africa) and Willem Arondeus (a member of the Dutch resistance to the Nazis).

However, the information inside the museum is limited to a few short sentences on each topic, and some of the text, including a summary of Arondeus, was taken from Wikipedia articles.

Bernard, who has worked in the video game industry for over a decade, has confirmed that he has used Wikipedia and, without going into detail, has assured that he corroborates this information from other sources; this year he also released a video game called Light in the dark which focuses on educating youth about the Holocaust.

Alan Cooper, a representative of Epic, noted that all projects completed on Fortnite — including the Ice Dragon and Jailbreak cards — were subject to the Creator Rules and Content Guidelines. The company helped Bernard verify the content from a legal standpoint. The content cannot be gory or disturbing and Bernard is responsible for statements and information within the museum.

Cooper stated, “We regularly review and update these rules based on the continued growth and development of our ecosystem.”

Epic’s decision to work closely with Bernard comes just months after the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) opined that the company’s policy on Holocaust deniers deserved a fail due to its permissiveness with Nazi-related usernames. An Epic spokesperson said the rating does not reflect the company’s efforts to remove usernames that violate its policies, or the use of automated tools and human moderators to prevent hate speech and derogatory language.

In a statement about the in-game museum, Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the ADL, said: “Until the video game industry changes the rules around hate and abuse in multiplayer online games, we cannot consider the experience a true alternative to more traditional forms of Holocaust education.”

Traditional Holocaust museums are discreetly supporting Bernard, who was mocked on social media by Holocaust deniers and white supremacist Nick Fuentes after announcing his project in Fortnite. Other experts pointed to past disagreements, during which serious issues were resolved in Fortnite.

The official Martin Luther King Jr. 2020 memorial event allowed users to view footage from the civil rights era and his “I Have a Dream” speech. However, King’s message has been mapped to default loading screens for all players Fortnite which included the message “Aim for the head!” and players could use emotion this allowed them to dance and whip. (Epic later disabled the ability to use emotion within experience).

Epic reported that over 8 million players attended the event. About 3.3 million people visit the actual King’s Memorial in Washington every year, according to the National Park Service.

Fortnite has 70 million active players every month, and some Holocaust educators are optimistic that Voices of the Forgotten could be a way to connect with young people where they are: in the world of video games.

“How do we meet the next generation who grew up on the Internet?” 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 raised important questions. “It makes anyone who comes to the museum realize that the Holocaust is not only European but also global history,” Labendz said.

No attendance data yet, so it’s too early to tell the museum’s impact, but Bernard says other Holocaust museums have contacted him to thank him for his efforts.

“You have to think about the youth,” said Bernard. “I wanted to show positive stories about the leaders of the Resistance so that they would have someone to look up to.”

Zachary Small is a journalist covering the dynamics of power and privilege in the art world. He has been writing for The New York Times since 2019. More about Zachary Small

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