A German far-right nationalist network has been accused of attempting to recruit children with a free video game in which players attempt to liberate their homeland by killing Antifa and confronting German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who features as an enemy.
According to Vice News, the game, titled Heimat [Homeland] Defender: Rebellion, has been released by Ein Prozent. The group is currently under investigation by Germany's domestic intelligence agency for suspected extremism.
The game reportedly allows players to choose to embody one of several real-world speakers from the German far-right scene. Many of these, such as Alex 'Malenki' Kleine and Martin Sellner, are figureheads of the Identarian movement, a post-World War II ideology in opposition to multiculturalism, immigration and Islam - with some ideas influenced by Nazi theories.
Heimat Defender sets itself in the year 2084, where players must liberate their homeland in a "Europe gone crazy", where a corporation called 'Globo-Homo Inc' is oppressively controlling society. 'Globo-homo' is an abbreviation of 'global homogenisation', according to the Global Network on Extremism and Technology, referring to the perceived eradication of cultural differences.
Vice News reports that the gameplay includes references to the killing of George Floyd, and uses the hashtag #NiemalsaufKnien ('Never on our knees') - the slogan of an anti-Black Lives Matter campaign.
At one point, players are asked why the killing of a German teenager by a migrant did not prompt an outcry equivalent to the one that followed Floyd's death while in police custody.
Academics and experts have already expressed concerns about the Heimat Defender's potential to be a gateway for young people into far-right ideologies.
Linda Schlegel, a PhD researcher on online radicalisation, told Vice the game's use of memes and "cool, retro-looking" appearance - reportedly an homage to the '80s aesthetic and format of 2D platform games like Super Mario - give it an insidious subtlety.
"It's problematic, because it's not an immediately obvious display of ideology," Schlegel said. "It's full of memes and jokes and far-right subcultural language that appeals to young Identitarians."
Meanwhile, Ein Prozent, the group that financed and released the game, told Vice they wanted to make a game with a "patriotic message" as a "counter-culture signal" to left-leaning games.
The group says the game was downloaded more than 20,000 in the first days of its release.