Garry Newman, the creator behind the classic sandbox game Garry’s Mod, has spoken out against the game’s long-running Nazi issue. On Twitter, Newman wondered whether he should ban the roleplay servers run by “a bunch of guys that really seem to love the Nazis.” Yeah, that sounds like a good idea to me.
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Released in November 2006, Garry’s Mod is a Valve-published, physics-based sandbox game that lets you manipulate 3D models to create your own fun. It’s similar to Minecraft or Roblox in that there is no predetermined objective. The game gives you tools to play with and it’s up to your imagination to conjure a world to share with others, make a movie, etc. Role-playing is big, and some players enjoy role-playing the historical occupation of Europe, which of course involves Nazis. Unfortunately, some Garry’s Mod players actually seem to harbor real Nazi sympathies. YouTuber Super Bunnyhop has a pretty good video from [checks notes] 10 years ago looking into the variety of Nazis lurking in Garry’s Mod.
All of this is to say Nazis have existed in Garry’s Mod for a minute. It’s unclear what developer Facepunch Studios has done to address this problematic community of players since then, but Newman is now publicly wondering if he should straight-up ban them. It’s tricky, though.
To ban or not to ban Nazis in Garry’s Mod
Newman tweeted a poll on April 19 asking his followers one simple question: “We should be banning [these Nazi gamemodes in Garry’s Mod], right?” At the time of this writing the poll just closed, with a full 73 percent of the nearly 50,000 respondents asserting that yes, Nazi gamemodes ought to be banned.
Newman followed up the poll with a long tweet about server moderation. He explained that he could “see merit in the games here where you roleplay survival [or] war scenarios,” expressing that a large portion of Garry’s Mod’s roleplay community servers are just that: “engaging, interesting, compelling, and educational” experiences that explore the diplomacy, humanity, infighting, politics, and suffering of global catastrophe. He doesn’t want to police these. However, Newman noted that certain kinds of moderation issues crop up.
The problem for us is that lurking in some of these games are a bunch of guys that really seem to love the Nazis. It seems like a few of them really love the Nazis outside of the game, too. That creates problems. If someone is running a [World War 2] roleplay server, and taking donations, and this bunch of regular hardcore players really love the Nazi stuff…what are they [going to] turn the game more towards? Are they going to say, ‘Hey, this isn’t really what this game is about [so] please find another community’?
Newman noted he doesn’t want to ban all WW2-themed Garry’s Mod servers, but getting rid of “the celebration of Nazis” sounds like a top priority for the team. He floated ideas like outright banning swastikas, heil Hitlers, and other Nazi symbolism, clarifying that doing so might lead these players to just use another symbol to circumvent the ban. Still, he believes these folks are “so fragile” that the ban would be too much for them to handle and they’d just leave the game alone.
Newman concluded by wondering how can server owners who are seemingly allowing Nazis to proliferate in Garry’s Mod can “work together” with the game’s developers to stop the problem before a ban comes. He noted that while this may turn into an argument, this isn’t about freedom of expression.
“This isn’t a loss of freedom,” Newman tweeted. “This isn’t an attack on your free will. This isn’t mind control. This is nothing new. We have taken servers down before, we have blocked [unsavory] activities, and we’re going to keep doing that. This is really a notification to the server owners, we’ve had this gray area for a while and now we’re keeping more of an eye on it.”
Kotaku has reached out to Newman for comment.
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While it doesn’t seem definitive that Garry Newman and Facepunch Studios will ban servers populated by Nazis just yet, it’s clear that the team is paying more attention. It’s one thing to use a role-playing server as a means to learn the historical ramifications of a genocidal group. It’s another to use the game to push real Nazi propaganda, something Newman, it seems, now hopes to stop.