Why can’t far-right provocateurs just be good at anything? Acquitted, an action-shooter game by first-time developers, Nordic Empire Games, is intended to be a provocative celebration of the acquittal of teenager Kyle Rittenhouse. Instead, it’s a very poorly made zombie shooter, without even a glimmer of the courage of its convictions.
Kyle Rittenhouse was charged with the fatal shooting of two men in August 2020, when he fired at unarmed protestors during civil unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The case, in November 2021, starkly divided Americans, with the left viewing his acquittal as a miscarriage of justice with racist roots, while the right saw it as a victory for the right to bear arms in self-defence. The chillingly named Nordic Empire Games see it, based on the available evidence, as something to gloat about.
Wherever you land on this matter (and let’s not beat around the bush: he got away with killing people), I’d hope a person’s central thought would be: innocent people died. Lives were ended. No matter how big a “win” the result of the court case might feel to a person, the circumstances remain abhorrent and deeply tragic. So making a video game that’s intention is to laugh about it is, without a doubt, an inciting act. My dismay is with just how badly they’ve done it.
The game’s own Steam page boasts that it took the developers six months to make. I’m genuinely surprised it was more than a weekend, given the paucity of what’s on offer here–a top-down twin-stick shooter, set in a single location (a car park outside a courthouse), in which you fire at AI-free crowds of incoming zombies. You do this over and over and over, and then it ends.
Each new “level” has slightly harder enemies, maybe some bosses, but is otherwise identical to the last. Movement is clumsy, the 2D side-on character barely connected to the top-down backdrop, while zombies just move in your direction and nothing more. There is a range of weapons, but changing them is so unwieldy that it makes far more sense to just stick with the semi-automatic rifle. You just hold down the fire button, it reloads for you. And, er, that’s it. That’s the whole “game.”
And yes, you’re right. I said “zombies.” Because, if nothing else, Acquitted is a cowardly piece of dross. Some zombies carry Communist and Antifa flags, and the girl ones have pink and blue hair (satire!!!), but their blood is green, their skin grey, and their heads split open. In another act of astonishing parody, the game calls them “Brainless,” which would be quite the zing if you couldn’t literally see their brains.
“Self-defense VS the Braindead” reads its title screen. This reminds me of when vehicular slaughter-sim Carmageddon was released in Germany in 1997, when the country had laws that forbade video games to depict blood. Developers Stainless Games patched it for that market, making the people into zombies, the red blood into green goo. But there was no governmental authority looming over Nordic Empire, no external pressure to censor its own game. It just chickened out.
The response on Steam has been very predictable. Lots of alt-right-wannabes all piling in to give the game its “Overwhelmingly Positive” status, most with under half an hour of play on record. (Although, in their defense, there’s barely 0.4 hours of game here.) However, a few, in their efforts to prove how much they too want to pwn the lefties, accidentally highlight just how milquetoast this effort is.
“uncensored patch edition needed?” is the title to one especially perspicuous Steam post.
I realize why you probably left it out but there aren’t any BLM flags which was the whole theme of the original riots.
There should be some BLM flags carried by white liberal zombies, rainbow flags, trans-zombies, pink [pussy] hat simp zombies, and throw in some Furry zombies and make a Greta Thunberg boss level.
Yes! mikiew is right! Although quite how Greta fits into this scenario I’m not entirely sure. This game set out to cause great offense, to stick a finger up at the pinkos, to celebrate the far-right and endorse the actions of Rittenhouse and any who choose to follow him. So why is it so…flaccid?
This spineless approach makes even less sense when you dig into who exactly is Nordic Empire Games. One third of the Swedish team is William Hahne, once the press secretary for far-right political party, the Swedish Democrats’ youth league. The Swedish Democrats are a nationalist and populist party, founded from the remains of various fascist and white nationalist groups of the 1980s. Like many such groups worldwide, they’ve since distanced themselves from these origins, while remaining overwhelmingly anti-immigration, and, well, Swedish broadcasters ruled that it’s cool to call them xenophobic.
Hahne himself, in 2010, was thrown out of a Nordic Council meeting in Iceland, after racially abusing a bartender. Then in 2015, Hahne was expelled from the Swedish Democrats, after the party found its way to some election success, and began clearing house of its more extremist elements. Hahne was alleged to have been “collaborating with far-right parties,” according to Sveriges Radio. So he instead formed a new party, firmly to the right of the Swedish Democrats, called Alternative For Sweden.
Alternative For Sweden’s focal issue is the forced repatriation (or “remigration” as they call it) of a million Swedish immigrants. The party said in a 2021 YouTube video that this value is based on “a deep conviction that Sweden has no future as long as remigration does not become a reality.” Once that’s done, you see, “our children and grandchildren can grow up in a Swedish and safe Sweden.” It’s by-the-books classic racism.
That’s one of the guys making this game. And yet, despite his heartfelt and passionate beliefs, he was too big of a yellow-bellied coward to make a game that actually says anything. Rittenhouse shooting zombies? What even is that? Even if you’re generous enough to extend the branch that calling “woke” people zombies is some sort of all-time burn, it still makes no coherent sense.
Nordic Empire’s website makes some grand claims about the vast importance of their existence. They are “three young men, fully dedicated to the development of games that are fun and engaging, while at the same time staying committed to what is right and true.” But then why Acquitted? This is a game that despite its implied bravado, its bold declarations, doesn’t make any statement, beyond a character who could be anyone, clumsily shooting at some gray-skinned zombies carrying early ‘90s Soviet flags. It fails to defend Rittenhouse’s actions, let alone portray a coherent argument for self-defense. It reduces the complexity and tragedy of the original incident to absolute nothingness, to a banal and tiresome experience that is somehow impervious to semiotics.
“We, as so many others,” the site continues, “have noticed the narratives that are repeatedly forced into modern entertainment. These narratives more often than not run contrary to healthy living and many of the foundational values of Western Civilization.” Now, even if we put aside the goose-stepping vocabulary here, how have they delivered on these values in their first release? They’re fighting for a counter-cultural narrative where you can finally play a game where you shoot indiscriminately at zombie hordes? Boy, do I have some bad news for them.
“As such,” they interminably witter on, “we want to create entertainment that takes a stand for the inalienable rights of each man, and challenges the dominant narratives of modern entertainment.” But…but they haven’t! They’ve put out an embarrassingly poor one-screen twin-stick shooter level, that doesn’t say anything meaningful about the Rittenhouse incident, nor indeed absolutely anything else whatsoever!
So I return to my opening question? Why is the far-right so bad at everything? Why couldn’t they have put together something even halfway passable as a technical game, that then had something to say that espoused their (disgusting, racist, wretched) beliefs?
To be idiotically generous, the best argument that could be made here would be for this to be an attempt to be censored. To create such an uproar with their iconoclastic shovelware that it would be taken down by Valve, and as a result they could loudly trumpet from their nearest hilltop about the injustice of their silencing, about how the leftist media has deplatformed and cancelled them. Because good grief, these silly little boys are desperate for attention.
And yes, this article is attention. But it’s no cry for this game to be removed. It should be left on Steam for all time, so no matter how long they live, this pitiful rubbish will always be attributable to them. They’ll always be the laughing stocks who thought this crap would achieve anything. Don’t give them money, for heaven’s sake. Not even if you’re desperately curious. Believe me when I say it’s worse than most of the incessant waterfall of shite that pours onto Steam every day. But don’t call for it to be banned, either. They haven’t begun to earn such efforts.
Additional reporting by Ian Walker.