By Brian Harris, Staff Writer
The Wolfenstein franchise has long been a staple of the first-person shooter genre.
Ever since Id Software’s Wolfenstein 3D all the way back in 1992 practically invented the genre, the series has thrived and survived for over two decades. And while many things have changed, the level of violence, the graphical fidelity and even the principal characters, one thing has always remained the same. And that’s simply that Wolfenstein is a series about killing Nazis.
Magic Nazis. Robo-nazis. Just plain ol’ vanilla Nazis. Any variant you can think of, series protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz has blasted away. And for as long as this series has existed, this premise has attracted almost no unwanted attention. Despite that in some ways its parodying a serious time in American and indeed world history, nobody’s ever seemed to mind.
But times are different now, and the sequel to series reboot Wolfenstein: The New Order has become marred in controversy. By actual Nazis.
Across Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, you can’t look at a single post without seeing comment after comment about “SJW’s,” or “a liberal agenda”, and turning the game into a political statement. This is shocking to me in so many ways. First off, as already stated, this is a franchise that for over 20 years has its foundations in Nazi killing.
This game isn’t a reaction to anything, it isn’t a political statement as much as any other Wolfenstein game is a political statement. The Nazi-killing trappings are merely part of the franchise’s storied history.
Another thing that irks me; why is there controversy now? This is the sequel to the reboot. This isn’t the start of anything wholly unique, its simply another installment in a storied tradition of FPS games. Anyone who thinks otherwise either hasn’t been paying attention, or simply isn’t old enough to remember that far back.
But unfortunately, I think this turn is emblematic of a little more than controversy over a video game.
I hate to pile on the bandwagon, but let’s talk Trump. In many ways, this administration has gone out of its way to reassure and legitimize hate groups such as the kinds of neo-Nazis who would be offended by a game like Wolfenstein. And their new-found misplaced legitimacy gives them the audacity to voice their criticism over their portrayal in the media.
In this case, as moustache twirling villains in a video game. And that’s a scary thought, that evil people like Nazis have the confidence to voice their hate filled opinions publicly and openly in the name of “politics.” Slandering Nazis isn’t political, its moral, and anyone who thinks otherwise is very clearly either unclear on our shared history, or a Nazi themselves.
I think the best response when it comes to this event has come out of Wolfenstein’s publishing company Bethesda Softworks’s VP for PR and Marketing Pete Hines. In an interview with gamesindustry.biz, Hines states “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.”
It’s scary to me that a major company must essentially reaffirm that, yes, Nazis are bad, and that some would view that as a political statement. But, in some ways, that’s what makes things like this new Wolfenstein so essential in 2017.
People shouldn’t be afraid to condemn bigotry, and it shouldn’t be controversial to do just that.
Wolfenstein’s marketing has picked up on this controversy with the tagline “Make America Nazi Free Again.” And, hopefully, that’s a sentiment we can all agree on.