Over the last 24 hours, Bethesda has done something that would have been considered unnecessary: publicly justifying Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus‘s anti-Nazi approach.
Everything kicked off early yesterday morning, when Bethesda pushed out the latest piece of marketing for The New Colossus on Twitter. It was a play on the “Make America Great Again” line, a key slogan for Donald Trump which has since become a meme of its own.
— Wolfenstein (@wolfenstein) October 5, 2017
Wolfenstein has been pretty clear about its position on Nazis. BJ Blazkowicz has been killing Nazis in some way, some how, since 1992. Sometimes it’s been in Germany. Other times it’s been in the US. Sometimes it’s been in another dimension entirely. But wherever Nazis shall be, BJ will be there.
But because this is 2017, and everything is just a little bit off the rails, Wolfenstein was suddenly being accused of being “political”, normalising hatred, and using a charged political climate for marketing.
Please don't ruin one of the best video game series ever with political bullshit.
— Zach Tassin (@ZachTassin) October 6, 2017
imagine seeing the words "no more nazis" and reacting like this pic.twitter.com/5L9b8CPm3s
— Vylash #TeamKICK (@MiraVylash) October 6, 2017
Yeah well I wasn't about to play a game about endlessly killing white people anyway. GTA San Andreas is more my speed.
— Götz (@Gotz_Iron_Hand) October 6, 2017
— Cory Arnold (@alex_tetra) October 6, 2017
Pete Hines, the vice president for marketing and PR at Bethesda, told Games Industry that the idea of the #NoMoreNazis marketing push was “what the entire game (and franchise)” was based on.
He intimated that development on Wolfenstein was ongoing before the current political climate was this charged, and that nobody at Bethesda had a crystal ball to know just how prescient Wolfenstein 2 would be:
At the time none of us expected that the game would be seen as a comment on current issues, but here we are … in Wolfenstein’s case, it’s pure coincidence that Nazis are marching in the streets of America this year. And it’s disturbing that the game can be considered a controversial political statement at all.
Hines reiterated that “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,” he added.
The marketing message is pretty simple for Bethesda: Nazis are bad. That hasn’t changed in 25 years. But Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and social media wasn’t the beast that it was now, and so things that would have seemed completely bizarre back in 1992 happen more frequently.
Like people complaining that Wolfenstein is suddenly political – even though it could be argued that the franchise has always been subtly political. Wolfenstein hasn’t really changed – but the world around us has.