In today’s “creative solutions” department, we have Gaijin Entertainment and War Thunder, which Polygon reports as changing its monetization policies regarding national flag decals. Cash grab? Not quite, according to the article and Gaijin’s head of public relations, Alexander Trifinov:
“What we have seen is that in some cases people are using these flags in inappropriate ways.” Those ways include, Trifonov said, images and symbols of Nazism that are prohibited in many European countries.
It’s not just Nazi symbolism either; other combinations of flags and other decals were being exploited to offend various nationalities or religions. Gaijin’s solution was to take the previously free decals and put them behind a paywall, thus making it (in theory) less appealing for someone to use those flags as an easy way to troll or offend.
To counter the first argument many folks will have — namely that dem foreigners oughta toughen up and be more MERICAN! — I should point out that the United States Flag Code is extensive in its description of the proper way to display the flag, and it’s easy to see how displaying a flag decal inappropriately on a vehicle in a video game — such as by putting another flag above it — could be considered offensive to certain uber-patriots.
Looking past that to the core gaming issue, is Gaijin right to charge for flags, and will it be an effective deterrent to offense? In a vacuum, I think charging for the flag decals, seeing as how they’re totally cosmetic, is something most of us wouldn’t have a problem with, though taking away something that used to be free is always going to rankle.
As to the effect it will have on abuse… I think it could reduce it, but not eliminate it. People who are just doing it for the lulz might decide not to waste a few bucks any more, but if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool skinhead or some other nutjob who feels it’s his or her duty to keep those (insert racial slur here)s in line, then you’re probably OK with it. The article also points out that some people would use flags to confuse their enemy into making them think they were on the same team. Regardless of Gaijin’s intent, the company ultimately profits from this kind of behavior and mindset, which places it on unsteady moral ground.
I’d like to think there’s a better way to handle the situation, but even banning “offensive” images opens up the question of what exactly is offensive to all the various nationalities that could be represented in the game, and all the various combinations of images that could lead to a player or group of players thinking something is offensive. Even something as seemingly obviously offensive as swastikas and Nazi imagery arguably belong in a game that features WWII-era German fighting vehicles.
What do you think of Gaijin’s approach and what would you do?