There's been speculation for more than two decades that the hero of the iconic Wolfenstein first-person shooter games — B.J. Blazkowicz, the guy who you use to machine gun hordes of Nazis — was Jewish. But the game's creators have long been coy about the character's origins. Not so much anymore.
It's not clear if the next Wolfenstein game, slated for release on May 20 from Machine Games and Bethesda Softworks, will be explicit about it. When we last saw the game, it appeared to avoid the topic directly despite making a reference to Blazkowicz being able to read Hebrew and forcing an undercover Blazkowicz to stomach the prattling of Nazis about people with "pure blood". Admittedly we saw only a thin slice of the game and, for all we know, the full, new Wolfenstein might be more explicit.
Over the weekend, a gamer posed the question about Blazkowicz's possible Jewish roots to John Carmack, formerly of id Software, the studio that created 1992's original Wolfenstein 3D even before it made the famous Doom. Carmack told the fan he assumed so, but directed the question to the Wolfenstein 3D's lead designer, Tom Hall:
— John Carmack (@ID_AA_Carmack) March 2, 2014
Last year, Hall told Kotaku that whether Blazkowicz was Jewish "was never specified or intended at the time, though I intended him to be of Polish descent."
His answer this weekend, made things more clear:
— Tom Hall (@ThatTomHall) March 2, 2014
Knowing whether Blazkowicz is Jewish is unlikely to affect whether old or new Wolfenstein games play well, but it may well feel different to play a game full of bad-guy Nazis if you think the guy you're playing is Jewish. It seems like that's a safe assumption, one that expands gaming's coverage of a culture and faith it has largely ignored and that just might make this year's Wolfenstein, set for release on May 20, a bit more interesting.