The use of minorities as stock villains is something that has plagued entertainment media for years. Now that political correctness has gone thankfully mad, it has become less acceptable to lean on generic brown terrorists, effeminate criminal masterminds or scheming mandarins when finding adversaries for an action hero to plow through. Video games may have lagged behind somewhat but many developers do at least make some effort to to avoid stereotyping.
There is one notable exception, however. One beleaguered minority that seemingly has no voice in wider society. Nobody to stand up and say, “Enough. Leave these poor people alone, you MONSTERS.”
I’m talking, of course, about Nazis.
Yes, the proud Aryans (and affiliates) of the Alt-Right are sick of being the go-to target for self-righteous good-guys. Why should they be treated as scum, fit only for vigorous fragging and expertly chained combos? Where is the respect? The simple human decency?
And what has triggered these snowflake stormtroopers? A vicious piece of anti-Nazi propaganda in the form of a trailer for Bethesda’s latest game – Wolfenstein: The New Colossus.
A brief history of shooting Nazis in the face
There are many, many games that involve the punching, stabbing, shooting and general doing-in of members of the National Socialist party. From the Indiana Jones point-and-click adventures to the full-on assault of Medal of Honour, with plenty of oddities like the superhero antics of Freedom Force vs the Third Reich in between. The gold standard of Nazi-harm, however, is the Wolfenstein series.
Starting in 1981, with the 2D Castle Wolfenstein, the series put you in the shoes of all-American bruiser BJ Blazkowicz, deep behind enemy lines and on a largely stealth-based mission to infiltrate the titular, Nazi-occupied castle. By 1992, the series found its groove with Wolfenstein 3d – one of the earliest first-person shooters and the template for pretty much every game in that genre to this day.
After shooting your way through the primitively-rendered 3D castle, you would finally do battle with a cybernetically-enhanced MECHA-HITLER, thus cementing the franchise’s reputation for cold-edged realism.
Later reboots gave us Return To Castle Wolfenstein and simply ‘Wolfenstein’, both of which featured multiplayer Nazi-duffing as well as a load of occult bits and bobs, because the Nazis were definitely into that, no matter what David Duke says. There was even a Wolfenstein role-playing game for (non-smart)phones, allowing turn-based Nazi foiling you could carry around in your pocket.
Which brings us to the most recent iterations of the Wolfenstein experience. 2014’s Wolfenstein: The New Order and this year’s entrant, Wolfenstein: The New Colossus. These games take place in an alternate reality, a 1960s in which the Nazis defeated the Allies and took over the world. Only you, a revived BJ Blazkowitz, can lead the fightback and kick the ascendant fascists right in the crease of their impeccable uniforms.
I’m not here to debate the ethics of video game violence. You can see first-person shooters as a malign influence on our Pop Kids or as a harmless exhaust pipe for pent-up frustrations or as anything else you like. I’m easy. The recent outpouring of Alt-Right anger does raise one important question, though. Given the fact that we are now well into the fourth decade of digital Nazi slaughter, why is it only now that games like this have put the far right on the defensive?
Reactions to the New Colossus trailer have been mainly positive, with fans of The New Order relishing the chance to get back to that game’s formula of fast-paced action and light puzzle solving. The game resembles a glossier, Nazi-themed Half Life 2 sequel as much as anything.
Among the criticisms from the Alt-Right are accusations that the game is ‘racist’ to white people. The evidence for this seems to lie in a black woman character who at one point refers to our man BJ as ‘white boy’.
As YouTuber “Bob Ross” comments, “That black Afro whore calling that white man a white boy… More racist agenda against white people.”
An anonymous commenter to 4Chan has seen through the real agenda behind the game. “Bethesda jews are trying to destroy gaming industry with political correctness fagottry.”
Ultimately, as YouTube commenter Bobby Johnson puts it, “Why are people hating nazis? You should be hating muslims who are terrorizing, murduring, and raping europeans. And the jews”
Wise, if poorly spelled, words, I’m sure you will agree.
No, the real issue with Wolfenstein: The New Colossus isn’t that it strikes a markedly more critical tone against the would-be Master race. The explosions may get bigger and the guns louder with every new game but the Wolfenstein formula is the same as it ever was.
The problem is Trump’s brand of populist, easily consumed, fascism-lite. The problem is the dark corners of the net that put the Alt in Alt-Right . The problem is simply that, more than ever, there are now self-identifying Nazis who are willing to peer out from under their stones, hold up their hands at about 45 degrees and cry foul.