The digital D-day — Conference session about world war II and computer games

December 9-10 Umeå University arranged the conference ”Digital History in Sweden” in which Henrik Arnstad participated, representing Södertörn University, presenting the lecture ”The digital D-day: World War II, propaganda and computer games 1991–2021”:

This lecture explores the continuity of the cold war American propaganda effort in computer games in the post-cold war era 1991-2021. The aim is to detect changes, differences and continuity regarding political discourse surrounding the D-day landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944 (operation Overlord).

Matthew Thomson writes in ”Military Computer Games and the New American Militarism” (2008):

In theorising propaganda purely in terms of distortion and manipulation, critics of computer games have ignored the most fundamental of questions concerning propaganda, why is it to be believed?

Regarding post-cold war changes in propaganda and popular culture it can be stated that:

  • The 1990’s saw renewed American military confidence as the USA released itself from the Vietnam war trauma during the Gulf war of 1990-1991.
  • At the same time, computer games began to co-exist with movies as important channels for historical consciousness.
  • Regardless of medium, Hitler was defeated by an American GI-Joe.

The game ”Medal of Honor: Allied Assault” (EA) in 2002 marked a huge shift in WW2-computer games about the D-day landings of 1944. The D-day games became standardised. And unlike the challenging development in post-1968 war movies, the post cold war computer games regarding World War II quickly became a conservative arena in order to be commercially successful, thus being a neo-conservative field of digital popular culture.

My presentation as a PDF.