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The Alt-Right are complaining about Nazis being killed in video games

What could their problem be?

The use of minorities as stock villains is something that has plagued entertainment media for years. Now that political correctness has gone thankfully mad, it has become less acceptable to lean on generic brown terrorists, effeminate criminal masterminds or scheming mandarins when finding adversaries for an action hero to plow through. Video games may have lagged behind somewhat but many developers do at least make some effort to to avoid stereotyping.

There is one notable exception, however. One beleaguered minority that seemingly has no voice in wider society. Nobody to stand up and say, "Enough. Leave these poor people alone, you MONSTERS."

I'm talking, of course, about Nazis.

Yes, the proud Aryans (and affiliates) of the Alt-Right are sick of being the go-to target for self-righteous good-guys. Why should they be treated as scum, fit only for vigorous fragging and expertly chained combos? Where is the respect? The simple human decency?

And what has triggered these snowflake stormtroopers? A vicious piece of anti-Nazi propaganda in the form of a trailer for Bethesda's latest game - Wolfenstein: The New Colossus.

A brief history of shooting Nazis in the face

There are many, many games that involve the punching, stabbing, shooting and general doing-in of members of the National Socialist party. From the Indiana Jones point-and-click adventures to the full-on assault of Medal of Honour, with plenty of oddities like the superhero antics of Freedom Force vs the Third Reich in between. The gold standard of Nazi-harm, however, is the Wolfenstein series.

Starting in 1981, with the 2D Castle Wolfenstein, the series put you in the shoes of all-American bruiser BJ Blazkowicz, deep behind enemy lines and on a largely stealth-based mission to infiltrate the titular, Nazi-occupied castle. By 1992, the series found its groove with Wolfenstein 3d - one of the earliest first-person shooters and the template for pretty much every game in that genre to this day.

After shooting your way through the primitively-rendered 3D castle, you would finally do battle with a cybernetically-enhanced MECHA-HITLER, thus cementing the franchise's reputation for cold-edged realism.

Later reboots gave us Return To Castle Wolfenstein and simply 'Wolfenstein', both of which featured multiplayer Nazi-duffing as well as a load of occult bits and bobs, because the Nazis were definitely into that, no matter what David Duke says. There was even a Wolfenstein role-playing game for (non-smart)phones, allowing turn-based Nazi foiling you could carry around in your pocket.

Which brings us to the most recent iterations of the Wolfenstein experience. 2014’s Wolfenstein: The New Order and this year’s entrant, Wolfenstein: The New Colossus. These games take place in an alternate reality, a 1960s in which the Nazis defeated the Allies and took over the world. Only you, a revived BJ Blazkowitz, can lead the fightback and kick the ascendant fascists right in the crease of their impeccable uniforms.

Why now?

I’m not here to debate the ethics of video game violence. You can see first-person shooters as a malign influence on our Pop Kids or as a harmless exhaust pipe for pent-up frustrations or as anything else you like. I’m easy. The recent outpouring of Alt-Right  anger does raise one important question, though. Given the fact that we are now well into the fourth decade of digital Nazi slaughter, why is it only now that games like this have put the far right on the defensive?

Reactions to the New Colossus trailer have been mainly positive, with fans of The New Order relishing the chance to get back to that game’s formula of fast-paced action and light puzzle solving. The game resembles a glossier, Nazi-themed Half Life 2 sequel as much as anything.

Among the criticisms from the Alt-Right  are accusations that the game is ‘racist’ to white people. The evidence for this seems to lie in a black woman character who at one point refers to our man BJ as ‘white boy’.

As YouTuber “Bob Ross” comments, “That black Afro whore calling that white man a white boy... More racist agenda against white people.”

An anonymous commenter to 4Chan has seen through the real agenda behind the game. “Bethesda jews are trying to destroy gaming industry with political correctness fagottry.”

Ultimately, as YouTube commenter Bobby Johnson puts it, “Why are people hating nazis? You should be hating muslims who are terrorizing, murduring, and raping europeans. And the jews”

Wise, if poorly spelled, words, I’m sure you will agree.

No, the real issue with Wolfenstein: The New Colossus isn’t that it strikes a markedly more critical tone against the would-be Master race. The explosions may get bigger and the guns louder with every new game but the Wolfenstein formula is the same as it ever was.

The problem is Trump’s brand of populist, easily consumed, fascism-lite. The problem is the dark corners of the net that put the Alt in Alt-Right . The problem is simply that, more than ever, there are now self-identifying Nazis who are willing to peer out from under their stones, hold up their hands at about 45 degrees and cry foul.

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Move objects with your mind – telekinesis is coming to a human brain near you

If a user puts on the Neurable headset, they can move virtual objects with their thoughts. 

On 30 July, a blog post on Medium by Michael Thompson, the vice-president of Boston-based start-up Neurable, said his company had perfected a kind of technology which would be “redrawing the boundaries of human experience”. 

Neurable had just fulfilled the pipe dreams of science fiction enthusiasts and video game fanboys, according to Thompson – it had created a telekinetic EEG strap. In plain English, if a user puts on the Neurable headset, and plays a specially-designed virtual reality video game, they can move virtual objects with their thoughts. 

Madrid-based gaming company eStudioFuture collaborated with Neurable to create the game, Awakening. In it, the user breaks out of a government lab, battles robots and interacts with objects around them, all hands-free with Neurable's headset. Awakening debuted at SIGGRAPH, a computer graphics conference in Boston, where it was well received by consumers and investors alike.

The strap (or peripheral, as it’s referred to) works by modifying the industry standard headset of oversized goggles. Neurable's addition has a comb-like structure that reaches past your hair to make contact with the scalp, then detects brain activity via electroencephalogram (EEG) sensors. These detect specific kinds of neural signals. Thanks to a combination of machine-learning software and eye-tracking technology, all the user of the headset has to do is think the word “grab”, and that object will move – for example, throwing a box at the robot trying to stop you from breaking out of a government lab. 

The current conversation around virtual reality, and technologies like it, lurches between optimism and cynicism. Critics have highlighted the narrow range of uses that the current technology is aimed at (think fun facial filters on Snapchat). But after the debut of virtual reality headsets Oculus Rift and HTC Vive at 2016’s Game Developers conference, entrepreneurs are increasingly taking notice of virtual reality's potential to make everyday life more convenient.

Tech giants such as Microsoft, Facebook and Google have all been in on the game since as far back as 2014, when Facebook bought Oculus (of Oculus Rift). Then, in 2016, Nintendo and Niantic (an off-shoot from Google) launched Pokémon Go. One of Microsoft’s leading technical fellows, Alex Kipman, told Polygon that distinctions between virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality were arbitrary: "At the end of the day, it’s all on a continuum." 

Oculus’s Jason Rubin has emphasised the potential that VR has to make human life that much more interesting or efficient. Say that you're undergoing a home renovation – potentially, with VR technology, you could pop on your headset and see a hologram of your living room. You could move your virtual furniture around with minimal effort, and then do exactly the same in reality – in half the time and effort. IKEA already offers a similar service in store – imagine being able to do it yourself.

Any kind of experience that is in part virtual reality – from video games to online tours of holiday destinations to interactive displays at museums – will become much more immersive.

Microsoft’s Hololens is already being trialled at University College London Hospital, where students can study detailed holograms of organs, and patients can get an in-depth look at their insides projected in front of them (Hololens won’t be commercially available for a while.) Neurable's ambitions go beyond video games – its headset was designed by neuroscientists who had spent years working in neurotechnology. It offers the potential for important scientific and technological breakthroughs in areas such as prosthetic limbs. 

Whether it was a childhood obsession with Star Wars or out of sheer laziness, as a society, we remain fascinated by the thought of being able to move objects with our minds. But in actual realityVR and similar technologies bring with them a set of prickly questions.

Will students at well-funded schools be able to get a more in-depth look at topography in a geography lesson through VR headsets than their counterparts elsewhere? Would companies be able to maintain a grip on what people do in virtual reality, or would people eventually start to make their own (there are already plenty of DIY tutorials on the internet)? Will governments be able to regulate and monitor the use of insidious technology like augmented reality or mixed reality, and make sure that it doesn't become potentially harmful to minors or infringe on privacy rights? 

Worldwide spending on items such as virtual reality headsets and games is forecast to double every year until 2021, according to recent figures. Industry experts and innovators tend to agree that it remains extremely unlikely you’ll walk into someone examining a hologram on the street. All the same, VR technology like Neurable’s is slowly creeping into the fabric of our lived environment.