Wolfenstein's Other Nazi Villains

Wolfenstein's Other Nazi Villains

The upcoming video game "Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus" has caused an uproar from Nazis - considering the game is about defeating them.

In today's world, politics finds itself coming up in the strangest of places. From TV shows to music to clothing, political statements and ideals are everywhere, and really, they have been for decades. Video games, however, usually stay away from that, as things can change dramatically during a game's development. However, that doesn't mean companies can't use political slogan parodies to promote their game, and that is exactly what generated controversy between Machine Games/Bethesda Softworks and alt-right groups, as their upcoming game, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, used certain slogans and taglines that angered the same people who marched on Charlottesville or defended those who did march. Games are games, and parodying the news is just a common marketing tactic.

For some background, the Wolfenstein series of games is essentially a shooter/stealth game, in which the player fights and kills virtual Nazis. The recent reboot, The New Order, re-imagines the story in an alternate universe in which the Axis powers won WWII and took over the world. Now the player must fight the Nazis and take back their nation. The series has received positive reviews in its 36-year history, the reboot no exception. It's not unlike other famous World War II shooters like the original Call of Duty, but the alternate universe allows for a much more original take on the genre. Meanwhile, in reality, the alt-right includes several neo-Nazi groups, some of whom have literally called for another Holocaust to take back “white America.” Among the alt-right, many look to Trump as the one who represents their views and will do as they say (it should be noted that Trump actually did speak at a rally for an anti-LGBT hate group recently, but that's a different story). These were the very same people who took to Charlottesville and even killed a woman because of her views, wave swastika flags, yell “blood and soil,” the usual Nazi stuff. And, as show via this controversy, they also play Bethesda video games such as Wolfenstein.

The problem started when Bethesda and Machine Games, the companies who worked on the game ran ads on Twitter with hashtags such as “#NoMoreNazis” and a tagline of “Make America Nazi-Free Again.” This is just par for the course – remember how many people parodied the Obama “Hope” poster, and still do almost ten years later? But apparently, some Twitter users were offended by these statements, as well as the pictures of burning Nazi flags – specifically, American Twitter users. Many have called Bethesda a “liberal puppet” for using these terms, some even wanting to sue because they feel the company is discriminating against “legitimate” political views and calling for the deaths of innocent civilians. Bethesda did not issue a response, however, and continues to publish ads with the same imagery and slogans – because the game is not about Trump or the alt-right, it's about Nazis ruling America in the early 1960s. That doesn't stop the trolls though, and let's be real, nothing would stop them short of being banned from Twitter. “No More Nazis” is not a political statement, and even if it was, then you can't argue the opposite, because this is America and we fought a war to stop Nazis from coming to America. But this is 2017, and there are no more rules on that sort of thing. So now Bethesda is accused of making a “liberal propaganda fantasy” game, while the alt-right parades hate speech as free speech and pushes a boycott of a video game company.

Now, there have been political undertones in video games. The Grand Theft Auto series is no stranger to this, with their 2004 release San Andreas being set in 1992 Los Angeles, the story inspired by the Rodney King riots and the crime that ran rampant in the area. Batman: Arkham City poses questions of how to manage criminal activity and where lines must be drawn. Another Bethesda series, and arguably their most famous, Fallout, often includes political aspects in their stories, such as the Enclave and Brotherhood of Steel in Fallout 3. However, one must remember that these games are being written, programmed, and developed for years before release – games coming out in 2020 are being worked on right now. The marketing will change, but using political slogans is going to be a constant, whether they're made up for the game or a parody of one in use now. But to say the developer is trying to start riots over a game they were working on four years ago, is just trying to cause an issue. It also would help if those calling for a boycott weren't literal Nazis, but I doubt we can stop them from being an actual thing now.

Really, it is a non issue. Trolls and Nazis condemning a video game company for making a game in which you kill Nazis. If you told somebody from 2007 that, they wouldn't believe you – then again, they wouldn't believe most of what's going on. We can't get rid of the Nazi problem in America, simply because the administration doesn't want to actually protect people that aren't rich and white. But even then, Wolfenstein is just a video game. It's pixels and voice actors, on a screen being controlled by an advanced remote. Bethesda took an opportunity to make fun of a slogan that everybody has already (“Make America Meme Again”), and it doesn't look like it will affect their sales too much, considering the series and their name. In time, when the next Nazi killing simulator comes out, we'll probably see another barrage of alt-right social media calling the game “propaganda.” So until then, play all the Wolfenstein, Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, Sniper Elite, and every other WWII type game out there. Have a blast, because Nazis don't want you to – so it's a total immersion.

Cover Image Credit: Machine Games/Bethesda Softworks

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