Where, if anywhere, is the line between casually offensive videogames and transparently hateful videogames situated? How many white, male playable characters and tokenized female or minority NPCs does a game need before we declare that the whole enterprise is rotten? These questions come up with alarming frequency when examining videogames, yet for all the tropes and slights—or, to use a mot juste, microaggressions—the line separating “problematic” games and hateful games is usually seen as incredibly difficult to cross. It’s never been easier to create a stupidly offensive game, yet it’s not getting that much easier to declare the whole edifice rotten to its core.
The best thing I can say about Myfarog—the only positive I can say, if you’re keeping score at home—is that it doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to its hatefulness. This game is not a collection of digs and slights, its whole existence is one massive act of aggression. It is loathsome, but at least it won’t make you work hard to figure out how loathsome it is. Myfarog is the creation of Norwegian black metal musician Varg Vikernes, who spent fifteen years in jail for burning down churches and murdering Norwegian black metal guitarist Euronymous. More relevant to the story of Myfarog: Vikernes is a white supremacist.
Myfarog can be understood as an extension of this worldview. Jeff Treppel has an excellent review of Vikernes’s RPG at Metal Sucks that contextualizes the game in terms of both Vikernes’s views and debates over the evolution of the RPG genre. You should read the whole thing. For our purposes, however, a few salient points stand out. Myfarog‘s protagonist, Treppel points out, can only be a white male of Scandinavian descent. Which is not to say that all protagonists are created equal. Indeed, Treppel notes:
The lighter the hair and the fairer the skin, the more blessed by the gods your character is. And, of course, the higher born the better. Nobles are naturally superior to the peasantry in this world. It’s the natural order of things. In fact, it’s even historically accurate (according to Varg).
This bullshit approach to race and gender also permeates Myfarog’s treatment of other characters. Women, for instance, are empowered to varying degrees, all of which are lesser than men. As for any character who isn’t white—well, let’s let Treppel handle this:
Don’t worry, though. People of Middle Eastern and African descent are represented. They are the “filthy”, “vulgar”, “poorly educated”, “animalistic” Koparmenn (“Copper Men”). You can’t play them; they are intended to be cannon fodder. There are two varieties of Copper Men: the Skrælingr (“Weaklings”) and the Myrklingr (“Darklings”). I’m pretty sure that the Weaklings are supposed to be Semitic people, as they receive a bonus to trickery. The Darklings, meanwhile, receive a bonus to spear throwing. You can guess who they’re supposed to represent.
So Myfarog is awful. As Treppel notes, “one of the suggested quest ideas is literally ethnic cleansing.” The game is the worst in a way that doesn’t require much thought. It is self-evidently awful (and if you don’t hold neo-Nazism as self-evidently awful, I really don’t know what I can do for you).
But what if we take a moment to think about the specific ways in which Myfarog is awful, if only because most games force us to go through those motions. This is, on the one hand, not the only game to feature problematic characterizations and disparities in power that can loosely be sorted along gender or racial lines. Yet Vikernes is clearly going for more than the casually discriminatory tone of other games; he’s aiming to make a real political point.
Myfarog requires the public to consider authorial intent. Whereas many games are open for interpretation—and indeed benefit from the audience’s acknowledgment that their developers’ ideas aren’t always canonical facts—Myfarog is inescapably a product of its creator’s worldview. It is a memoir/manifesto rendered in the form of a game. It is a book that describes a game, but really it is just a book—a stupid, hateful book. Were it not for the fact that Vikernes is a white supremacist, this would make it an interesting text, a game that is unusually amenable to all manner of literary analysis techniques. But Vikernes is so disinterested in subtlety, so vile in his outlook, that such analysis is basically unnecessary. Myfarog is what its creator wanted it to be: the rare game that is unambiguously hateful.
Header image from Burzum.org.