Whether you like it or not, the truth is there, and Bethesda Softworks isn’t ashamed to tell you: Wolfenstein is about killing Nazis. It always has been, always will be, and more-than-likely won’t change from that ideology in any way, shape, or form unless something new and more inspiring comes around. This creative pattern can be considered the heart and soul of the franchise since its inception in 1981.
Unfortunately, the latest ad campaign, albeit a rather ingenious one that has picked up pace, has stirred a lot of controversy since its launch late last week. Since it started, it seems that their little ad-campaign has stirred a lot of controversy, and has even led to some “fans” of the series to cut ties with the company. That ad campaign slogan resonates closely with President Trumps ad campaign “Make America Great Again”, but with a little twist: “Make America Nazi-Free Again”.
The outrage behind it? The fact the game is about players killing Nazis in 1960’s America. According to some, they don’t even want to touch the game, but the wake-up call should be even louder. The franchise has always been about killing Nazis and it will always be about killing Nazis since its inception over 30 years ago. To reaffirm this, we have to take a look back from when the series first launched in the 1980’s.
“Desolation. Tyranny. Enemy of Endless Might.”
Where do you begin with Wolfenstein? Do we go to the era where the franchise was first a birds-eye view series or do we go straight to the days of when it brought the FPS genre to life? We need to go to the very beginning. The very, very beginning. In 1981, Muse Software (now defunct) created a set of two games. One called Castle Wolfenstein and its sequel Beyond Castle Wolfenstein. Both were developed as action-adventure titles for Apple II and the Commodore-64.
Unlike the modern titles by id Software and MachineGames, Muse Software took an entirely different approach, one that is quite a bit more familiar to fans of games such as Metal Gear on the NES. The game emphasized more on stealth and infiltration than their blood-filled successors. But one thing stuck true: You killed Nazis. Quite a few Nazis at that.
“America will never fold.”
Even as Muse Software moved on, id Software didn’t, and kept their eyes firmly on the Wolfenstein title, eventually adapting it into their own with their own game in 1992 known as Wolfenstein 3D. In this title players took on the role of the franchises titular character William “B.J.” Blazkowicz whom has been sent into Castle Wolfenstein in order to find out what the German’s have planned for with Operation Eisenfaust. In turn, h ehas been thrown in jail during this time. Over the span of the game, players spent a majority of their time foiling the Nazis plans while undermining anything that the Nazis may have planned.
During his multiple missions, B.J. is known for his capabilities as a Nazi killer, as well as a spy, and retains that infamy throughout the course of the series. Let alone does he take out Nazi’s, it comes out that his over the course of his struggles, Blazkowicz is no stranger to scientifically enhanced super soldiers or even creatures derived from the Nazis practices in everything occult.
The underlying ordeal here? It was primarily about killing Nazis and that still hasn’t changed even with the foundations that had been laid down by previous Wolfenstein titles. So let me point this out and be rather blunt. In the series? You kill a lot of Nazis. I mean a lot of Nazis. Hundreds per playthrough at that. Even David Cushner explained all of this in the 90’s book Masters of Doom:
“Wolfenstein was perfect for Carmack’s technology because it was, at its core, a maze-based shooter. The player had to run through all these labyrinths fighting Nazis and collecting treasure, and then doing away with Hitler. Despite the game’s blocky, low-resolution graphics, it was unique in its implication of a larger virtual world.”
“Yes, the Nazis rule the world now, they are everywhere. Everywhere.”
In Wolfenstein: The New Order the series pushed forth an entirely new direction. One that would involve the Nazis winning the war, the world falling to its knees, and the oppression of the Third Reich having gone global. By 1961, the streets are lined by the Nazis and their supporters, including white supremacist groups such as the KKK whom are marching the streets. This depiction only has arisen to controversy in recent days due to the current political climate.
A political climate that sees white supremacists marching through the street much as they are in the most recent trailers for Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. The largest bit of the controversy is also the fact that the game is about killing Nazi’s and the leader that directs the regime itself. In modern society, it seems that such a stance as what Wolfenstein has is almost one to frown upon and even discourage due to its themes and messages of anti-fascism and anti-racism.
Luckily for Bethesda Softworks, the current political climate is the time to release such a campaign, one that speaks out against hate and fascism in any form. A climate where a single piece of artistic creativity has been called out for its freedom of speech and its approach to artistic creativity as a piece of art. One that has even been protested against by some due to its approach to everything anti-Nazi and anti-fascism to the point that the VP of Marketing and PR, Pete Hines, had to make a statement to GamesIndustry.biz regarding this matter:
“Wolfenstein has been a decidedly anti-Nazi series since the first release more than 20 years ago. We aren’t going to shy away from what the game is about. We don’t feel it’s a reach for us to say Nazis are bad and un-American, and we’re not worried about being on the right side of history here.”
So what’s the big deal? People are upset that the game is about, you guessed it: killing Nazis. Some are even taking the anti-Nazi and anti-fascism stance as a personal attack against Trump and Trumps supporters. So much so that they even believe the game itself is a form of hidden message within the franchise that fans of the series should go out and kill Nazis.
“[In the game] freeing America is the first step to freeing the world. So the idea of #NoMoreNazis in America is, in fact, what the entire game (and franchise) is about. Our campaign leans into that sentiment, and it unfortunately happens to highlight current events in the real world.”
His statement is true. The franchise has been and has always been about killing Nazi and freeing the world of their oppressive ideology. So much so that it’s not wrong for them to stand behind the franchise itself. However, take it this way: They don’t want people going out and killing Nazis. That’s never been something they’d want nor would they condone.
The game itself is just continuing a legacy of which it originated. Hines has even cleared this up by stating where the company and himself stand when it comes to Wolfenstein.
“At the time none of us expected that the game would be seen as a comment on current issues, but here we are. Bethesda doesn’t develop games to make specific statements or incite political discussions. We make games that we think are fun, meaningful, and immersive for a mature audience.”
“The war ain’t over. Look at all of the Nazis running around.”
Whether you are for or against what the team has going on for Wolfenstein II: The New Order there’s no doubt that the core aspects of the game will always remain intact. The studio seems to have no interest in deviating from the core experience that the franchise offers, which is about taking on extreme fascism, a war alt-history war, and one that is well worth the risks of doing so, even if the franchise is about killing Nazis and re-establishing the United States as it were before the war.
However, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus isn’t the only game taking huge risks. Mafia III was a rather large one for 2K Games. The title took on an honest and rather well received depiction of racism in the height of racism in the ’60’s, before Doctor Martin Luther King made his march for equality. Far Cry 5 will even be one of the most arguably prolific out of the bunch as it’s exploring extremist cults within our own homeland. Ones that use religion to alienate those from their own government and to provide themselves with the benefit of power.
Even Hines touched on this during his interview with GameIndustry.biz. So what’s the big deal? Are we really that entitled or scared of representation within fictional universes that people actually are upset by the action of killing a Nazi in game?
“We can’t speak to what other publishers choose to do and say with their games. As we’ve said many times before, fighting Nazis has been the core of Wolfenstein games for decades, and it isn’t really debatable that Nazis are, as Henry Jones Sr. said, ‘the slime of humanity.’ Certainly there’s a risk of alienating some customers, but to be honest, people who are against freeing the world from the hate and murder of a Nazi regime probably aren’t interested in playing Wolfenstein.”
To be honest, maybe it’s time that games do become a bit more questionable morally and ethically. Especially if they can stir up such arguable points as to why a game SHOULDN’T be about what the entire franchise has been about since it’s inception in the 1980’s.
“Games are a powerful platform to explore all kinds of topics. Their ability to immerse players in an alternate role, in an alternate world, like Wolfenstein’s Nazi-infested America, allows players to actually feel and experience the emotions of the situation.”
Is it really problematic that a franchise does what it always has been doing and just happens to use the current political air to promote itself? Lets just take a second to think about this. They just got a lot of free publicity of this topic and it doesn’t even hurt their feelings for the fact they know they’ve done something right when there is actually outrage over a fictional piece of media.
For now, I – for one – can’t wait to see what Blazkowicz and friends have in store for us when the game launches later this month for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. later on for the Nintendo Switch.
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.