The world is a well-connected place these days. The internet has played a big role in shrinking borders, as much as some people hate that fact. Information can be shared with anyone and everyone, whether you want it to be or not. The idea of any piece of information getting lost these days is ludicrous. Sure, there are long lost movies on 9mm film out there, hidden in some vault or maybe even grandpa’s attic. But that stuff’s from decades ago. That can’t happen in this day and age, surely?
Well, the incredibly obvious lead-up indicates that yes, yes it can happen.
In 2007, Francisco Perez and his game company, Legend Studios, (probably) released a game called Shadows of War: The Spanish Civil War. To my knowledge, it’s one of only two video games ever made about the Spanish Civil War (the second being Espana 1936), and the only game that lets you play as a fascist soldier. That’s right, Shadows of War let you pick your side in the conflict, and one of those sides was the Nazi Germany backed Fascist party of Spain.
As you can imagine, this drew a lot of criticism. “It is not a historical event buried in the past,” Carlota Leret said, “but is very fresh in the memory of Spaniards. There is no justification for trivializing the killings and the suffering and pain of the victims when we still haven’t reconciled ourselves with the past.” Carlota Leret is the daughter of Virgilio Leret Ruiz, the first man Fascist leader and future Spanish dictator Francisco Franco had executed in 1936.
Manuel Contreras, a writer for the newspaper ABC in Spain, said that the game will “fuel political conflict and reinforce the split between the two Spains,” whatever that means, and that the game “will trivialize the drama of the civil war and dissipate its legacy of horror.”
For his part, Perez said the game was meant to be an educational tool. “As well as being entertaining, it could serve to remind people that they need to be conscious of past events to make sure they are not repeated.” In another article for The New York Times, Perez also says “There are a lot of young people in [Spain] who don’t know much about the war and this is an opportunity for them to learn.”
I have to say, I respectfully disagree with the position of both Leret and Contreras. According to an article in The Guardian Leret’s father is mentioned in the game, and it doesn’t seem like neither she nor her family was consulted on that. Her family didn’t need to be consulted, Virgilio Leret Ruiz is a public figure, but it likely rubbed some people the wrong way. But both she and Contreras are criticizing a game they know nothing about. The interview with those two was published days before the game was supposed to release, so they likely hadn’t played it. How can you criticize a game for trivializing a war before it’s even been released?
This reeks of a time when video games were still being condemned simply for being video games. That all video games were like Duke Nukem 3D or Carmageddon – mockeries of real life whose tongues were planted firmly in their cheek and could be labeled anything under the sun but ‘respectful.’ But by 2007, gaming had changed.
When Leret says the Spanish people “haven’t reconciled ourselves with the past,” that’s the point of the game. Culture, pop-culture in particular, often brings people together and forces a discussion on certain topics – the game already succeeded at doing that by starting this conversation. Does the game need to allow you to play as the Fascists to do that? No, but it does show the conflict from both perspectives, and the game doesn’t have to make them out to be sympathetic in order to do that.
You may notice I’m speaking in hypotheticals a lot throughout this article. The reason for that is because this game doesn’t actually seem to exist. There are only four articles on the internet talking about Shadows of War – the Guardian and New York Times articles talking about the controversy, a Destructoid article re-iterating the talking points of those two, and a Spanish website talking about Legend Studios next game that briefly mentions Shadows of War.
None of these articles contain any video clips or screenshots of the game, and Google searches reveal nothing but the latest Middle-Earth game. I couldn’t even find any information about Fransisco Perez, other than that he also worked on War Times in 2004 and Murder in the Abbey in 2008, corroborated by that Spanish article. It’s like this game never existed in the first place. If I didn’t know better, I’d say this whole thing was some faked publicity stunt run by a gaming company in an effort to drum up some interest.
If you have any information about this game, please find a contact address in the video above. This historical game – if it was ever even released – needs to be preserved. It doesn’t matter if the game is any good or not, what matters is that it’s available for all to say and learn from. That’s what history in gaming is all about.