MachineGames, the video game developer behind the recent Wolfenstein games, has stated that the backlash received by Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is “incredibly weird and disappointing” and claimed that the stories told within these games has become “relevant” thanks to an “increase of right-wing extremism in the Western world.”
MachineGames Senior Game Director Andreas Öjerfors told PCGamesInsider.biz during an interview at Gamescom 2019 that the themes found in the Wolfenstein franchise were never intended to be topical, but that the studio first noticed that “fighting the Nazis” had allegedly become “problematic” during development on Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus:
“It’s incredibly weird and disappointing. We never meant for our stories to be relevant, we wanted to tell great, interesting stories to the best of our abilities. But then, when we started to talk about Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, we started to get comment online about the theme of the game, fighting the Nazis. Somehow some people felt that was problematic, which is just incredibly disappointing. We’ve seen an increase of right-wing extremism in the Western world. We see that online to a great degree. Right-wing extremists are great at affecting the debate online. And of course, maybe they abused us to whip up some anger when we were making Wolfenstein II.”
However, Öjerfors appears to be willfully ignoring the underlying issues which truly led to the backlash against MachineGames and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. In a volatile political atmosphere where those who even remotely disagree with neoliberal, extremist progressive views are declared to be “white supremacists,” “bigots,” or “Nazis,” many believe that the “anti-Nazi” narrative can be used to justify politically motivated assault on egregiously labeled targets. (Related: Kotaku Cites Small Sampling of Tweets as Proof of Harassment of Wolfenstein: Youngblood Designer)
In an obvious attempt to capitalize on American political discourse, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus leaned heavily on reactionary discourse in its marketing, most famously using the politically-charged slogan “Make America Nazi-Free Again” in an advertisement whilst simultaneously feigning ignorance as to how the game’s advertising could be considered controversial to those who disagreed with the classification of political opponents, specifically supporters of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, as Nazis:
“At the time none of us expected that the game would be seen as a comment on current issues, but here we are. Bethesda doesn’t develop games to make specific statements or incite political discussions. We make games that we think are fun, meaningful, and immersive for a mature audience. 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.”
To label those who disagreed with MachineGames’ decisions and politically-charged advertising (and not the game itself, as MachineGames claimed in an attempt to misdirect the narrative) as “right wing extremists” is ultimately disingenuous, as much of the backlash came from those who were simply tired of being unjustly labeled and attacked due to divisive political discourse.