Sun. Oct 2nd, 2022

Video captured/edited by Mark Walton.

Bethesda, publisher of the upcoming shooting game Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, has issued a formal response to decidedly informal (and largely anonymous) criticism of the anti-Nazi game. In doing so, however, the company has made the curious decision to try to get rid of particularly political undertones.

The game’s latest advertising campaign, which launched this week, appropriates President Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” by using the slogan “Make America Nazi-Free Again.” This message can be read in two ways: as an isolated reference to the game’s conceit, which sees players battling through an alternate universe of the United States overrun by Nazis; or as a sharp remark about high-profile neo-Nazi demonstrations in the US in recent months.

The campaign was, unsurprisingly, followed by vitriolic comments from unconfirmed social media accounts. It’s a tactic that shouldn’t shock anyone who has followed recent fascinating studies on Russian campaigns of disinformation and exploitation of political bubbles based on similar actions on social media. One of the most visible anonymous complaints addressed to Bethesda, carried by “WTF really” retweets, described the ad campaign as an attempt to “play on the hysterical leftist fantasy of power.” (for clarification: this anti-Wolfenstein messages appear to have no apparent connection to Russian disinformation campaigns.)

games industry reached out to Bethesda marketing VP Pete Hines to discuss the matter, and he had nothing in the form of an apology or concession to any of the ad campaign’s dissidents. “Wolfenstein has been a decidedly anti-Nazi series since its first release over 20 years ago,” Hines told GI. “We won’t shy away from what the game is about. We don’t think it’s a reach for us to say that Nazis are bad and un-American, and we’re not worried about being on the right side of history here. .”

After explaining the series’ premise to the uninitiated — that gamers control one soldier, BJ Blazkowicz, as a one-man army against a rising Nazi order — Hines attempted to dance around the series’ inherently charged subject matter. “Bethesda does not develop games to make specific statements or spark political discussion,” he said GI. “We make games that we think are fun, meaningful and immersive for adult audiences.”

Unfortunately for Hines’ argument, it’s hard to imagine an American era where a violent, armed struggle against a violent, anti-Semitic culture wouldn’t resonate in a political way. Bethesda might just be stunned that one of the bad guys in the media world, the Hitler-led Nazis, would ever don anything close to “defenders.” Hines admitted this GI to some extent: “In WolfensteinIn this case, it is pure coincidence that Nazis are marching through the streets of America this year. And it’s disturbing that the game can be considered a controversial political statement at all.”

GI reporter James Batchelor did an excellent job of asking Hines if… Wolfenstein II could have made a stronger political point and by comparing Bethesda’s latest shooter to other triple-A and indie efforts to push politically charged content into their games. It’s a great read all around. Hines responded fairly cautiously to the larger topic, but he didn’t seem concerned about losing a few sales to an anti-Nazi ad campaign: “To be honest, people who are against ridding the world of the hatred and murder of a Nazi regime are probably not interested in playing Wolfenstein.”

List image by Bethesda

By akfire1

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