'Wolfenstein II' Video Game is Strangely Relevant in Trump Era

There's no button for talking to them first.

Since there have been video games we’ve been finding new ways to murder Nazis across increasingly developed digital landscapes. Start with 1981’s Castle Wolfenstein for the Apple II and cycle up through today; there’s always been a way to put a hurt on fascists, who’ve long been good-enough stand-ins for society’s worst villains. Thing is, Nazis are back. Seemingly over being mascots for evil, actual Nazis are again competing to be the worst aspect of modern culture. And so we will kill them again, in video games.

The new trailer for Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, which juxtaposes brutal evisceration and bouncing doo-wop music, makes the upcoming sequel of the 2014 reboot Wolfenstein weirdly relevant despite its cartoonish vision of a Nazi-dominated dystopia.

In the game — due out on consoles and PC on October 27 — players are presented with a plot right out of The Man in the High Castle, wherein the Nazis, victorious in World War II, are now the ruling global power. Taking place in 1961, a militant American resistance outfit attempts the “Second American Revolution” to overthrow the Nazi regime.

By itself, the game is only living up to its Wolfenstein heritage, which has let gamers violently murder Nazis since 1981. But now, with emboldened neo-Nazis holding rallies in public and encouraged by the violent rhetoric of President Donald Trump, they’ve come out of their woodsheds. The otherwise normal scenes of digitized Nazi murder in Wolfenstein now feels like now a sharply pointed political satire — even if the developers didn’t intentionally think of it. No one’s advocating the killing of another human, but the presence of games like Wolfenstein create a bizarre situation where real-life Nazis are complaining that video game-Nazis being killed is doing damage to their reputation. 2017!

In previous interviews with the game’s development team, MachineGames, which are based in Sweden, the game’s anti-Nazi views aren’t expressly political — it’s just business as usual for Wolfenstein.

“On some level, of course, everything that you experience influences you, right?” creative director Jens Matthies told reporters during this year’s E3. But despite sly references to topical arguments — The Verge reported overhearing two non-playable characters in the game exchange dialogue obliquely referencing the “punch nazis” debate — Metthies went on to add that they only intended to create something “timeless” that can survive without context. “I don’t think you can really do that if you’re doing sort of an ironic commentary on society,” he said, “I think it has to be something sort of more universal than that.”

An image of the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who protested the removal of a Condeferate statute in Charlottesville, Virginia this past summer. It's been some sixt years since World War II, yet video games that put Nazis in the crosshairs are suddenly a topical statement. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla

Still, one can’t help think MachineGames have maybe changed its tune. While MachineGames aren’t an American dev team, it’s easy to speculate that in the wake of violent neo-Nazi episodes like Charlottesville, Wolfenstein II is getting more hardcore.

The title of the new gameplay trailer is, almost declarative, “NO MORE NAZIS.” That seems pretty intentional.

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