Recently controversy brewed. Okay, I am going to have to be more precise, sorry for that jab. Controversy brewed when the Wolfenstein Twitter account posted a Tweet that read:
The insinuation is that this is a very blunt political stab at how right wing America has been getting over the years. This is for two reasons. The first is the specific call to liberate America from Nazis who have now occupied it (which we are going to get to in a moment). The second is born from the Tweet itself: Make America Nazi-Free Again feels like a deliberate call back to the Trump campaign boast “Make America Great Again”. Besides claims of “well, “make X great again” is a meme about changing a country for the better”, I accept I honestly can't add to this.
That said, some of the controversy is born from the premise America has been taken over by Nazis, whom you have to kill. To be honest, I am not going to beat the dead horse that is the observation Wolfenstein has been about shooting Nazis since 1981 with Castle Wolfenstein. However, the setting of an alternative history where the Nazis win WW2 and you are a resistance fighter is more recent. Specifically, paperwork was signed allowing MachineGames to make Wolfenstein: The New Order in November, 2010. Senior Gameplay Designer, Andreas Öjerfors, said in an interview the game took three years to finish.
“Well, okay, so Nazis won WW2, doesn't mean they occupied America.” Unfortunately, they did based on a trailer in 2013:
So, unfortunately a setting where America has to be freed from Nazis isn't new. It's about 7 years old, starting from beginning of development of The New Order. It is only soon we'll be able to actively take the fight to American Nazi-occupied soil, after taking the fight all over Europe including London. So, it strikes me as odd we're angrily calling Wolfenstein 2 political, especially as it is about fighting a threat that has been so hated and dehumanised for so long: Nazis.
...Yet, it is political. Wolfenstein: The New Order and Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus is political. Castle Wolfenstein in 1981 was political. Wolfenstein, as a series, is political. However, so are other great games we love. Spec Ops: The Line is incredibly political with a harsh viewpoint towards military bundled with a telling off of military shooters. So is This War of Mine, reminding us civilians get hurt too in military war. Oh, and the Metal Gear Solid series. Far Cry 5. Final Fantasy 7. The Witcher 3. Dark Souls. Legend of Zelda.
As an UK election ad quite a number of years ago said: “If you don't do politics, there's not much you do do”.
A political idea contains many things, including things as fundamental as our values. If we believe trans people should be identified by their genetic sex (which is unchanging currently) or their cultural gender or hormonal sex (which can be changed via transitioning) is a political view. If we value nationalism at all costs or if we accept transnationalism to some extent is a political view, especially if video games should be allowed to be imported in or be sold by foreign companies (e.g. Steam). Even our decision of if Link is male or can be female or a different ethnicity in a new iteration is political. That isn't to say the prior three examples are special, unless you get purely simplistic gameplay titles like Tetris then there is always some political bent to it. It's everywhere. It's like patching holes in a boat, after said boat has sunk.
Why is it disgustingly invasive though, like stinging nettles after the Romans imported them into the UK? As I might have hinted at at the beginning of the prior paragraph, it's because we're political. When we make games we still project our values onto what is right to us, to what is fun and what looks good. We will make something look good or bad, and just the nature of that is a political concept, even if unintentional.
“Oh, so what you're saying is you can't have a silly meaningless game? Why does every game have to be serious?” is a likely thought due to the association with politics. The reality is, well, who says politics has to be so blunt or singular in meaning?
Radiator by Robert Yang could be, at face surface, a homophobic mockery of homosexuality. On the other hand, it could also be an intentionally gay collection of games intended for non-straight men about “male sexuality, punishing, eating, and driving”. However, you can also take it as a humorous take on homosexuality in a non-homophobic manner, where everything is made so excessive as to be funny. In a similar way to how Louis C.K. comments on how he laughs at some gay people, not because they're gay but “because they're fucking weird and silly”.
Just the decision we can laugh at or with certain topics is a political decision in of itself.
Commenting about how Wolfenstein 2 is unacceptable due to the political nature of it unfortunately leaves you with not much to play. Tetris isn't too political I suppose. That is assuming you don't start personalising them like the blocks of Thomas Was Alone and commenting on multiple colours working together but eliminating those of the same colour thus commenting on race and/or individualism. The idea that shooting Nazis in a video game is okay in a video game setting, or even boring (when done to death) is a political idea relating back to our tolerance of Nazis. In the same way we'd probably get a bit upset if we depicted children being mowed down by the thousands by your heroic protagonist.
So if you agree with or disagree with the idea that Nazis should be depicted as villains getting shot, that's a fair political decision (although if you disagree, it says a lot about our current society compared to prior years). Shutting it out due to screams of “I DON'T DO POLITICAL!” is meaningless without a qualifying statement of what political act specifically you oppose. Do you oppose real world settings? Real world references? Real world people? Will you refuse to buy a game because they reference a Trump meme, and therefore could be related back to alt-right people being compared to Nazis, when talking about their Nazi-murdering game?
“I don't do political” is meaningless as a phrase due to how vague, invasive and all-encompassing politics are. Even if it was meaningful, unfortunately we are hitting a cross-roads where passivity is getting harder and harder to keep. The world is changing. If it is for the better or worse is your decision, but it is changing strongly. To stay passive while clearly holding views of disagreement is likely to end with entering a new age that every fibre in your body detests. Where you wake up each day nostalgic for days gone, increasingly burying in your mind that when opportunity knocked and asked what you'd like from the world around you you instead went back to bed.
Don't go back to bed. Open the door, because the door knocks once.
On that note, let's get to the recaps! Choo choo!
* - I dig Cedi's mulling over what it means to make defeat in a video game part of the story and possibly even an ending determinant over the typical game over screen. I think it is interesting to make losing part of the hero's quest, falling against over-powering odds, before the cast trains, takes part in a rematch and wins. This is akin to Beatrix in FF9, as she starts off making you choke on her sword before finally in the end Zidane is able to over-power her (damn that sounds like an S&M relationship...). Yet it is nice for the option of winning every battle to be there too. Just depends on execution, as always.
* - Power creep is the type of double edge sword that people question why anyone would want one half of the blade. Some do enjoy having the numbers roll bigger and bigger, getting stronger and stronger, hitting ever harder, but most see it as needless padding that developers often fall into. On the plus side, Cedi describes how Fire Emblem Heroes is circumnavigating the power creep to an extent, on the downside, “to an extent”.
This week, I've been mostly listening to: Otherside (quiet) from the Tokyo Dark soundtrack. However, it's not on Youtube. The second most listened to track from the Tokyo Dark soundtrack is True Sadness, which is!
T – So earlier in the month I completed Danganronpa V3 as a review, but it had one of those wonderful endings that was hard to reveal to audiences why it was so good. Bass, dipping way deep into spoilers, talks about the ending I can't reveal without spoilers and why it was so unusual and genuine.
R – Ys is a series that I've wanted to be into, but could never manage it. It always felt too... Anime? Like a game I've seen a thousand times, not managing to break out of it's mould enough for me to salvage time for it. Yet, Blanchimont gave Ys 8: Lacrimosa of Dana a very high score. So who knows?
It seems that paranoia is something built into our culture. Either in the form of something we value being taken away, something we don't like entering it or another form of corruption. Which while it is amusing to see people lose their mind as they froth as their Daily Mails, Fox News or Infowars, it is horrible as hell to see it become part of the mainstream like this via the exploitation of information by media and politicians. Are there important questions to ask ourselves amongst the rise of the right wing? Definitely, but it seems to have been manipulated by forces that profit from our dysfunction to a point where the original question has been buried and forgotten. To call the constant slew of moral panic sheer madness is to somehow simultaneously suggest the situation is more structure and more chaotic than it actually is. On face value the constant selling of moral panics has created pandemoniums, one after another, to a point that everyone is affected. Deeper though, the moral panics are controlled to maximise media sales and to profit preferred political figures and political ideologies. The cunts.
I promise we'll go back to video games by the next recap. I'm sorry how political this got.