What if you could put Darth Vader in Fallout 4 or pursue a same-sex relationship in Fire Emblem Awakening? Game modifications — known as mods in the gaming community — allow players the change their favorite titles in almost any way imaginable. Additions range from weird and wacky to socially conscious. Of course, just like pretty much everything else on the internet, mods can also be twisted and perverted into something exclusionary and cruel.
Modding, as it's called, is a common practice in online neo-Nazi gaming communities. On popular hate forums, racists collaborate on ways to apply digital ethnic cleansing to their favorite games, rendering titles like Doom and Counter-Strike 100% white.
White supremacists don't trust game developers
In the gaming section of Stormfront, one of the oldest and most popular white supremacist forums, users often lament that there are no major games for white people. They complain that large developers now try to appeal to the liberal left by being "politically correct" — a gripe anyone who followed the GamerGate saga will remember well.
In one Stormfront thread titled "Triple AAA White Power Games!! Will they ever be made?," user GuyVelella wondered if the industry would ever make a game designed to appeal to the neo-Nazi community. "When are they going to make another game for the WHITE RACE to enjoy!!!?" they asked.
The response was a resounding no, but another Stormfront user, going by the Sharknado, offered a solution. Instead of relying on big game developers, GuyVelella should start exploring explicitly racist fan-created mods for popular games.
This kind of conversation has taken off on Stormfront as gamer culture and white nationalism continue to mix online. It's become increasingly accepted that if you can't find a mainstream game that fits your vision of a whites-only world, someone will make one.
Doom mod lets you score points by shooting Jews
One of the most horrifying examples of this type of mod is "Stormer Doom," which puts a fascist twist on classic first-person shooter Doom 2. Instead of killing demons, you're hunting Jews and communists. The mechanics of the game and its graphic depictions of violence are kept intact. The only difference is whom the blood is coming from.
In one screenshot of "Stormer Doom," the player is shooting at what appears to be two Orthodox Jews who are standing in front of an image of a menorah with Hebrew circling it. Other images from the game show the player shooting at images of U.S. presidents wearing yarmulkes and historic communist leaders.
The original page for the mod on Mod DB shows a little over 500 downloads. However, there are other sites that have the mod available for download and with the volume of conversation around the mod, it seems like there might be a larger audience than is recorded on Mod DB.
Warning: This video contains graphic violence.
Counter-Strike mod gives your gun-toting heroes neo-Nazi regalia
Another popular first-person shooter, Counter-Strike, has also gotten the fascist mod treatment. GameBanana — a popular site for the mod community — lets you download new skins that lets your characters dress up as "neo-Nazi skinheads."
This type of mod may not be quite as popular the ones that let you shoot and kill minorities, but it still gets plenty of positive feedback. The Counter-Strike Nazi mod was downloaded over 3,000 times. Other mods with Nazi imagery, like a skin of Hitler — also for Counter-Strike — received over 17,000 downloads.
The Euro-Solarian Empire: Nazis in space
Beyond shooters, neo-Nazis also seem to be particularly fond of grand strategy games like Civilization or Crusader Kings — presumably because of the imperialist gameplay. So, It's no surprise they would want to mod games like that as well. That also extends to space-exploration games like Stellaris, which received a mod in May 2016 making it possible to oversee a galactic empire ruled by only white men.
"The Euro-Solarian Empire is united by the beauty and superiority of the white race," reads the mod's description, adding that all races are "subservient yet united under the rule of white European descended peoples."
What are all the women doing in this male-dominated space society? The mod has an explanation for that too. "The great destroyer and cancer of feminism has been wiped out and women are back in their rightful place subservient to men," it notes.
In this case, Stellaris' developer Paradox actually removed the mod from Steam. Here's the company's statement on the issue (via Polygon):
"We embrace the idea that players mod the game to best represent how they want to play, we do NOT however wish to enable discriminatory practices. We appreciate any inappropriate mods being brought to our attention and will take them down where necessary, we also encourage players to make use of the flagging function provided by Valve where needed."
On Stormfront, Neo-Nazi gamers create a wishlist for future mods
In addition to the racist mods that have already been created, Stormfront often hosts discussions among white supremacists about the types of mods they wish were being created. There are a few different threads on the site attempting to seek out or establish groups of developers to create these mods.
"It seems to me any game, that's set up to be moddable, could be used as a vehicle to spread [white nationalist] ideas," one Stormfront user wrote. "I'm surprised there isn't already a group of people doing this. Or is there, and I'm just not in the loop."
It doesn't seem like anything ever came of this post, though the thread did receive 33 replies with serious discussion. It even spilled over into "Youth," another section of the Stormfront forums.
In this thread, user "TheTrojan" asks for suggestions for modding Bethesda's Softworks' The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Most of the ideas focus on promoting nationalist ideologies and creating storylines that parallel the histories of white European cultures.
Another Bethesda title, Fallout 4, also comes up fairly often on these Stormfront mods. In one thread, user "IndustryBlue420" suggests a mod that would allow for whites-only settlements:
"My idea is:
Fallout 4 Mods.
We, the members of Stormfront, make mods and upload them on The Modding Nexus. While mods that enhance white characters seem like the obvious choice, I'd appreciate a mod to only allow whites in my Settlements and some Stormfront-approved quest lines."
In response, user "Don The Fleming" provides his own plans for an even more offensive Fallout 4 mod:
"I was actually planing on making a mod that would remove all the useless blacks, "re-color" people according to their voice actor and reduce interactions of quest non-whites.
I might do it and upload it here in the future."
In this case, the purpose of gaming mods isn't just to re-skin the player character of the enemy. Instead, white nationalists want to cleanse their favorite games of all nonwhite characters and voice actors.
There's an entire world of wholesome, positive, cat-inspired mods too
It's easy to come away from these examples convinced that modding is a dangerous activity, but most mods are pretty harmless.
When people think of modding, they mostly think of the outrageous revisions and additions that players come up with for specific games. One mod for Grand Theft Auto V lets you to hire cats as bodyguards, and another Skyrim mod that turns all the dragons into Thomas the Tank Engine characters.
The neo-Nazi modding community may seem like a niche corner of gaming culture, easy to ignore. But it's important to be aware of these mods and recognize them for what they represent: a right-wing faction of the gaming community that's gaining influence and popularity as influential personalities start to push white nationalist talking points on YouTube and other platforms.
We've already seen these fringe political beliefs regurgitated by people with millions of followers like JonTron and PewDiePie. Modding provides an engaging way for neo-Nazis to reach young, impressionable gamers and spread their ideology. It's up to the gaming community, regardless of politics, to call out these racist ideals before they become even more prevalent.
More gaming culture and criticism
Check out the latest from Mic, including our deep dive into how female Overwatch players are dealing with online harassment, an article about a fan movement advocating for more same-sex romance options in Mass Effect, a personal essay to JonTron from an another Iranian-American and an article looking at cultural diversity in Overwatch.