What if Germany had won World War 1? The question is easy to ask, but impossible to answer. Which is why the World of Kaiserreich is so fascinating.
Kaiserreich started out as a modification for Hearts of Iron 2, then Darkest Hour, and now Hearts of Iron 4, but it is at its strongest when it does not focus on gameplay, but when it allows itself to focus on the individual stories set in motion by the grand political schemes actually represented in gameplay. And while the gameplay basis may be becoming increasingly, and irritatingly, abstract, these stories stay just the same.
Kaiserreich acknowledges that history is made not by the countries, or alliances, or factions, but by humans. What drives history is not some abstract button-pushing or the focus a government sets on something, but the concrete actions of humans – informed by abstract button-pushing, of course. Grand Strategy does not happen by itself, but is informed and driven by individual actions, many of which coalesce into what we call culture. And in Kaiserreich, cultures change.
Think of Totalism. You could just say “Mussolini stays on the left” and be done with it, but you’d miss the actual point. Individual action is informed by culture. Culture is the result of individual actions. It’s not Italy actually being on the loser’s side, but the cultural fallout that’s so interesting.
What about the Italian Futurists? In real life, they worshipped battle, technology and speed. And even though they were, in the beginning, artists, there was a Futurist party and Futurism became the official party style of Fascist Italy. What changed role did they play in the World of Kaiserreich? The fact that I can ask this question is what makes it so fascinating.
So far, this survey of speculative culture has mostly stayed in the actual mod, with a notable exception being the grandiose “slice-of-life” interim chapters of The Crown Atomic. But apart from those, culture is mostly constricted to informing political events. Authors and artists are mentioned only once they become relevant on a political scale because, after all, Kaiserreich is still a modification for a strategy game.
This is what I will try to change. In this series, I will try to capture the alternative culture, the alternative Zeitgeist of the World of Kaiserreich.
There will be a German author’s son and daughter going a cruise around the world, raising hell wherever they go. There will be underground Syndicalist literature. There will be Surrealists and Existentialists sitting in the cafes of the Commune. There will be a sad and ill insurance agent working in Prague, writing his novels. There will be members of the Chinese Vermilion Society hearing Jazz in German Shanghai.
There will be propaganda, and there will be humans.