‘Call of Duty’ Helps Rabbi Overcome Fear of Nazis

One rabbi praises “Call of Duty: World At War” for its ability to show the complexities and the moral consequences of war.


Micah Kelber, a rabbi and writer for weekly Jewish newspaper the Forward, recently played “Call of Duty: World At War.” Besides saying it was “just plain fun, he thought it was “an incredibly visceral experience” for Jewish players.

He argued that video games, aside from their story-telling and visual power, can be “psychologically significant” to gamers. Unlike books, he wrote, video games let players become their character through interactivity, allowing them to make decisions about their actions within the game that they might not otherwise be able to experience in real-life circumstances. Although many decry that violence in games teaches us to be violent, Kelber thought the opposite in this case:

“One of the tragedies of World War II, and war in general, is that it puts simple dichotomies, as opposed to realistic complexities, into our minds. Although on the face of it, ’Call of Duty: World at War’ rewards violent methods, its overwhelming gore and possibilities for playing the heartbreaking dilemmas of the other side, present the opportunity to put those methods into context. … Training ourselves with games like this can help us resist simplistic oppositions and the brutal desire for violent justice. Understanding the horrors of war through playing games that illustrate the complexities of violence may even help us resist the real thing.”

Kelber even said that “World at War” helped quell his fear of Nazis:

“One morning, I woke up extremely aware that I had just had a Nazi dream. No surprise, given that I wrote this review and played the game late into the night. But I was shocked that it did not scare me as it would have done in the past: The back of my neck was dry. The game had subconsciously flipped a switch. Although clearly there are still very real threats to Jews around the world, the feeling that Nazis were a threat to my existence was created by teachers and rabbis, rightly making sure that I knew my history. In truth, that specific anxiety was not real, but virtual. And I could vanquish it virtually, as well.”

Read the full article for more of Kelber’s insight. A very interesting read.

Shoot ’Em Ups Come of Age [The Forward]

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