Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a game that finds itself in an interesting position. This is a series that has always been about fighting Nazis. In each instance, there have been over-the-top occasions to completely obliterate people who wrongly believe they are somehow better or more entitled than individuals because of their race and attempt to elevate themselves over others. However, the current climate of the world has suddenly made a simple and straightforward game somehow political, despite insistence from creators that this is not a political game.
The thing is, the world has changed in the 36 years since Castle Wolfenstein was released. Nazis are still absolutely the bad guys. There is no doubt that white supremacy is horrible and we should be vigilant against these people and the threat they pose to society. However, there has been an increase in the number of people who support the racist behavior and horrible acts associated with Nazis. When Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus was teased during E3 2016, there wasn’t this toxic mindset featured as prominently as it is in the world. Things have changed vastly in 2017. We have Nazis, white supremacists, and members of the alt-right (more like alt-reich) marching in the streets in daylight, with some idiots actually defending their actions.
It is entirely possible MachineGames did not have a political agenda in mind when creating Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. Bethesda may not have even had one when it first started putting together promotional plans. But with the world being what it is today, it is impossible to avoid them when a game is all about killing Nazis and removing their regime. It is about fighting back against an unjust, wrong, and violent group of people. No matter what the intent was during creation, people will assign political connotations to it the moment it is released.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, like all works of fiction, is subject to interpretation. Once released into our community, people dissect it. They will use concepts and ideas from it to come up with their own thoughts and arguments regarding the game. It just so happens that this particular game is 100% in the “Nazis are terrible” camp. The people who know Nazis and all groups associated with them are terrible, will rally behind it and use activities, events, and ideas from the game to support their cause. The people on the wrong side of history will of course have little hissy fits, because a game like this shows how wrong they are.
And it isn’t just Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus that is becoming a political talking point. There are plenty of other games that have this sort of discourse surrounding it. Far Cry 5 involves a doomsday cult called Eden’s Gate, an mainly-white organization led by a preacher with nationalistic and military overtones. BioShock Infinite is set in Columbia, a floating city with elitist and nativist founders that promote an agenda that treats people who are poor or of a different race as second-class citizens. Call of Duty: WWII is taking us directly into the fight against the Nazis in World War II. Even the way in which South Park: The Fractured But Whole handles race has become a subject for politically minded gamers to discuss.
In a world where such things are happening, there is no way Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus can not be political. As anyone who has ever had to write a paper on symbolism in a Shakespeare play, society in To Kill a Mockingbird, or on various interpretations of The Catcher in the Rye will know, such works end up standing on their own once the public has access. They will then go over what they see, how it makes them feel, and what they learn from the experience. They analyze the final product and use it as they see fit. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a game about fighting Nazis. It has been released in a time period where Nazis are shaping up to be a possible threat again, thanks to the sudden brazenness of the KKK, white supremacists, alt-right, and everyone who ascribes to Nazism. No matter what intentions may have been during its creation, it has certainly become a major political game.