A red and white background with a superhero character all in black with his back to us and his collar up in the back holding what looks like guns in each hand and facing a transformers looking monster man

For the last several decades, since we got enough distance between us and World War II for them to be a hypothetical threat rather than an active one, Nazis have been stock villains. And so normally no one would think it controversial to use them as cannon fodder in a video game. That was certainly not the controversial thing about any of the previous games in the Wolfenstein series – they were part of the whole fuss over video game violence, but no one singled out the Nazis as unfair targets.


But we don’t live in sensible times anymore. No, this is 2017, and Bethesda’s decision to go all-in on the Nazi-killing aspect of the new Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus has brought all the worst people out of the woodwork to complain.

To be fair, Bethesda is clearly intentionally playing into the country’s current political strife in promoting its game. One trailer for Wolfenstein II even highlights that you not only get to violently, bloodily kill Nazis, you also get to shoot up white-sheeted KKK members. No AAA-studio game is going to be completed in a year, so it’s not like they could have known how much their game would end up feeling tied to current events, but they’re certainly willing to lean into it.

But the fact that casting Nazis as the enemy could be a controversial decision, that it would involve actively and intentionally alienating a part of the gamer subculture, is frankly horrifying.

The geek community, and specifically the gamer community, has become even more polarized than the country as a whole. Part of that may be our fondness for stories about Good and Evil. But it’s also got a lot to do with white nationalist groups like Stormfront actively recruiting from the lonely, entitled and pretty much completely white male “Gamergate” movement.

It’s no coincidence the same places Gamergate people used to harass women in the gaming industry for daring to exist – Twitter, mostly, with Reddit and 4chan for organizing – are now plagued with young men who proudly identify as Nazis and go around taking offense to video games that promise the catharsis of shooting up men wearing swastikas and white sheets. Somehow, despite all the stories of heroes doing the right things, part of the geek community has decided they’d rather be the Evil Empire.

The good thing is the creators, for the most part, are firmly on the side of Good, and they aren’t afraid to make it known. Our heroes in Star Wars still fight obvious fascists in the form of the First Order, and in the wake of Carrie Fisher’s passing, Princess and now General Leia has become a symbol of strength. Same-sex relationship options have become the norm in Western RPGs.  And Bethesda is proud to stand behind a game that alienates the worst parts of their audience.

Despite this radicalization of angry white male geeks, the rest of the community isn’t just embracing diversity, they’re insisting on it. And we have to keep fighting for a world where the only Nazis are the bad guys in video games.


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