Justified: The Saga Of The Nano Templar author and YouTube commentator Jon Del Arroz has denied and mocked Polygon’s claim that Warhammer 40,000 has a problem with “fascist fans.”
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Polygon’s Jordan Carroll claimed in his “Welcome to Warhammer 40K’s anti-fascist future” article that the series “has a problem with fascist fans. Alt-right partisans have tried to co-opt the hobby, using images of brutal despotism from its dystopian setting to further their cause.” He further claims Games Workshop had attempted to reject them in the last few years.
Almost a year prior, Games Workshop had denounced “real-world hate groups.” Some had supposedly treated Warhammer 40,000‘s Imperium of Man as anything other than satire or a cautionary tale over “the very worst of Humanity’s lust for power and extreme, unyielding xenophobia.”
“The Imperium is not an aspirational state, outside of the in-universe perspectives of those who are slaves to its systems,” Games Workshop declared at the time. “It’s a monstrous civilisation, and its monstrousness is plain for all to see.” This was seemingly motivated by a player in a Spanish Warhammer 40,000 tournament wearing Nazi clothing and decals on his troops; even entering under the name “Austrian Painter.”
Earlier in June 2020, Games Workshop insisted “Warhammer is for Everyone.” Announcing they wouldn’t accept “any form of prejudice, hatred or abuse in our company or in the Warhammer hobby,” and would “continue to diversify the cast of characters we portray.” Any who didn’t feel the same way would “not be missed.”
Carroll claims the fandom’s use of memes during the 2016 US Presidential Election was due to the alt-right; comparing or evoking Donald Trump — who would later become the 45th President — as Warhammer 40K‘s Emperor of Mankind.
Along with Games Workshop, Carroll insist that “many fans have begun resisting fascist infiltration as well.” The “extreme right” is touted as being up against “an irreverent group of YouTubers and other online personalities committed to anti-racism and progressive politics.”
Likewise, he claims the “fascist trolls” have “stayed mainly in the comments sections of YouTube channels and other online spaces.” Their other assertions include Games Workshop building a stronger and “socially conscious” social media presence since 2017, that even includes the exclusion of its Russian customer base due to their government’s invasion of Ukraine.
Carroll also cited several others to further his case. Game designer and “teaching fellow in communication” at UNC Chapel Hill Ian Williams suggested the supposed alt-right fans tended to be “isolated individuals rather than a mass movement,” and “most people sharing these memes were more attached to the imagery rather than to actually playing the game.”
While almost disproving Carroll’s proposal these are true fans of Warhammer 40K, he hastily adds that white nationalist and founder of the Traditionalist Worker Party Matthew Heimbach “credited the game’s bleak vision of eternal war as his inspiration for moving away from mainstream conservatism toward a more militant far-right politics.”
He also cites Aaron Trammell — assistant professor of informatics at UC Irvine — and his claim “There has always been a contingent of gamers in the tabletop space that has been suspiciously interested in Nazi and Confederate iconography.” Carroll points out that the Realm of Zhu blog notes Games Workshop “frequently poked fun at the right,” and that Space Marines had been depicted as dehumanized and “kind of monstrous.”
As Games Workshop aimed for a more American audience (dropping blatant parodies and a more British sense of humor), Carroll proposes that Space Marines were marketed as more heroic. “As the most popular faction in the game, the Space Marines and their allies in the Imperium began to get the good-guy treatment in marketing.”
“Warhammer 40,000 fiction in the Black Library series has been better about emphasizing the morally problematic nature of the Imperium, but advertisements and fluff as well as tie-ins such as video games undermine this by asking players to pledge loyalty to the game’s totalitarian empire, Carroll admits.
Once again citing Williams, Carroll claims the Primaris Intercessors are Space Marine redesigns that are more inspired by SWAT and “right-wing paramilitaries” than knights and plate armor. This is allegedly “reflecting a broader context of creeping authoritarianism” and a sign Game Workshop has been “shaped by a global culture that glamorizes deadly shows of force”.
Carroll adds this more heroic depiction “held a great appeal for the far right,” with some fans supposedly arguing “the unquestioning obedience demanded by the Imperium was a necessary response to the alien threats besieging humankind.”
Nonetheless, YouTubers Snipe and Wib and Arbitor Ian make their counter arguments. These include arguing in favor of female Space Marines, despite earlier lore dictating the process needs male hormones, very few survive the process even then, and women having representation through the Adepta Soroitas (or Sisters of Battle).
Williams is once again cited how those looking at the series’ past, such as the aforementioned YouTubers, helps them connect with its earlier roots “initially meant as an attack on xenophobia, toxic masculinity, religious fundamentalism, and militaristic power fantasies,” and “preempts some of the arguments that Warhammer 40,000 remains focused on appealing to straight, white, cis men.”
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The reintroduction of the space dwarves — The Leagues of Votann or “Kin” and pretense for Polygon’s article — is touted by Carroll as an alternative for humanity to the Imperium by “anti-fascist gamers.” This is somehow despite fears of “debuting a faction with Norse pagan influences at a moment when white nationalists were claiming Viking spirituality as their own.”
Williams also claims Kin could be Games Workshop “rekindling the satirical spirit,” as their worship of “ancient thinking machines” could act as commentary over the concerns of digital technology, while Arbitor Ian proposes their profit-driven Guilds could act as satire of capitalism.
How this would not attract the presumed Viking white nationalists or radical capitalists — while the Imperium’s clear satire and parody attracted those it mocked — was not directly clarified. However, Carroll speculates that YouTubers, Games Workshop, and fans would act as a vanguard.
Carroll closes noting that “Games Workshop is undergoing other positive developments as well, featuring more women and people of color in its products than before. […] Beyond challenging the lore, influential figures in the Warhammer community have tried to make other changes to make the hobby more inclusive.”
Williams is cited one final time. “He believes that fascists thrive on isolation and alienation,” Carroll quotes. “Therefore, anything we can do to connect with others — especially people who are different from ourselves — disrupts their recruitment efforts.”
Despite this, Carroll ends on a dour note, claiming “Creators who challenge fascist ideas often receive vicious comments, especially if they do not present as straight, white, cis men,” and that “YouTube algorithms promote channels that present uncontroversial videos with broad appeal, such as painting tutorials. Prominent hobbyists who take a stand may lose potential viewers.”
Carroll and Polygon’s appeal did not escape YouTuber and science fiction author Jon Del Arroz. “The woke took board gaming, the woke took D&D, they took Magic: The Gathering, and now they’re coming hard for Warhammer 40K, and Games Workshop — the idiots who run it at this point — are going along with it,” Del Arroz condemned.
The author asserted he has seen the trend “time and time again across the industry,” made more weird by wargaming “by itself, is an inherently right-wing kind of game.”
“The people who engage in this are usually right-wing people,” Del Arroz insisted, “so it is one of those situations where they want to kill off their remaining audience, and I don’t understand why their doing this, why their virtue signalling against the right wing, virtue signalling against the people who love their games, it’s insane! Why would you ever do that?!”
The YouTuber compared the “anti-fascist” part of Polygon’s headline to ANTIFA, along with the allegations of violence and looting levied at them, and claimed they would be the demographic Game Workshop is targeting. Del Arroz also refuted there was any right-wing co-opting, and reiterated the medium’s existing right-wing fans.
Instead of a fan base “resisting fascist infiltration,” he stated the series is instead “bleeding off fans” due to the virtue signalling and “force Warhammer into a political situation”, and that it will “absolutely destroy their brand.”
“Look, I don’t care who plays my games, who watches and reads my books whatever — I want you to enjoy yourself! I’m not gonna virtue signal against you, and try to get you out of my group because of what you believe in,” the author reassured before rhetorically posing the question, “Why do these companies all feel the need to do this?”
“They’re getting pressure from a few YouTube personalities, as Polygon says, which then gets echoed by this little media chamber like Polygon, and then they feel like they’ve got a lot of pressure on them to do stuff about things; like these guys can cancel them,” Del Arroz theorized.
“Well guess what, these guys don’t have any real power, and I always try to tell game companies this: ‘If you stop listening to these a—holes like Polygon — like Rodney Smith from Watch It Played, like The Dice Tower — if you just do your own thing, and you have a good game, and you ignore the s—t, you’re gonna do fine.'”
“It’s when you involve yourself with the woke politics is when you’re gonna have a problem,” Del Arroz explained. “Whatever you do is never gonna be enough for them, they’re never gonna be satisfied. ‘You must be better, you must go further,’ they’ll always tell you every single time.”
“This is just a stupid game,” he trivialized before emphasizing his love of Warhammer 40,000. “It’s about rolling dice to kill little miniature things, knock ’em over. That’s it. There’s nothing to it beyond that, you don’t need to virtue signal against half of your fan-base, or more, who are right-wing people.”
“But they’re doing it. They’re going out there right now, and the people at Games Workshop are perpetuating this garbage, and they hate you.”
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