In a roundup of this month’s new releases, I mentioned that I saw some incongruity in the marketing for the upcoming Wolfenstein: The New Order. One minute, the focus is on playful alternate-history ’60s pop music, and the next it’s all self-serious ultra-violence. CNightwing thought the disparity made sense given the series history:
I think the juxtaposition of whimsical ’60s Musik and the fight against ruthless oppression suits Wolfenstein perfectly. We musn’t forget that the original had you fighting Mecha-Hitler. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and neither should we.
But an ever-mysterious Guest disagreed and thought the game was handling the subject poorly:
I’d say it takes itself pretty seriously. The treatment of the subject matter is offensive, but because the Wolfenstein “brand” has been around for so long, it’s allowed to get away with it.
I’d love to see the mood-boards and reference images the developers have posted around their offices. What do you reckon’s on there? Shaven-headed prisoners in concentration camps to be used to help tweak the lighting in the torture chamber? Printouts of documents related to the Final Solution in order to get the typesetting for the “ambient storytelling” right?
I think the worst of it is that regular Nazis are clearly too mundane for computer games, so they had to think about how they could make them more evil. Return To Castle Wolfenstein had already done magic Nazis, so this time they’ve decided to keep things fresh by going for robotic Nazis.
Perhaps I just have a massive Spear Of Destiny up by ass, but to me it looks thoroughly ignorant.
Fluka was also put off:
I’ve also been a little unsettled by what I’ve seen of Wolfenstein so far. There’s a very long essay to be written about how video games have turned Nazis into Saturday morning cartoon supervillains. Indiana Jones, Inglourious Basterds, and other films have of course also used them in the context of World War II adventure, revenge fantasy, etc. But there’s something about the Wolfenstein marketing and world-building that feels kind of gross. Maybe it’s the usage of Third Reich style as a slick video game aesthetic? Maybe it’s that the whole mecha-Hilter camp clashes badly with the realism of modern game visuals?
And Malkovich Malkovich put a bow on the whole topic:
All valid points. And it looks like there’s some torture glorification at the end of that trailer too, for good measure.
I do agree that turning Nazis into cartoon villains is troubling for a lot of reasons, but I must say that as a Jewish player, it is immensely satisfying to kill make-believe Nazis.
Drew Toal brought us the third installment in our Special Topics In Gameology series concerning emptiness in games. He compared the spooky mansions in Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs and Gone Home, concluding that the latter’s was more frightening because it didn’t have monsters and self-playing pianos. Among the many comments that praised Gone Home was one from ProfFarnsworth wishing there were more games in the genre of “walk around a quiet place and figure out what happened there by observing.” Mr. Martini agreed and gave some tantalizing (and mostly horrific) possibilities from throughout history:
Me too! There are so many important moments in history that could be compelling portrayed through this format. Like:
1. The White House after it was burned by the British in the war of 1812.
2. The quarantine of Fort Riley, Kansas, at the beginning of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic.
3. Pearl Harbor after the attack.
4. Japanese internment camps after they were disbanded.
5. The aftermath of the Tet Offensive.
6. Strasbourg, Germany in the aftermath of the Black Plague.
7. The winter camp of the Donner Party.
I’m sure quieter and less tragic moments in history could also be brought to life with this format too. I’d love to do something like wander around a frontier settlement, or walk through a temple of Dionysus post Bacchanalia (now there is a great setting for a clean-up game!) or walk through a bazaar on the Silk Road.
I would play all of those. That does it, folks. Thanks for reading and commenting. We’ll see you next week.