Wolfenstein: The New Order
PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC
With the release of Wolfenstein: The New Order in May of 2014, it has been about 70 years since the end of World War 2 and the atrocities of the Nazi regime. In that 70 years the world has radically changed: man has conquered the unknown void of space, advanced medicine has healed the sick and technology has ushered in a new age of digital unity. However, even with all the progress achieved in the past 70 years some remnants of the old world will not simply fade into the passage of history.
German laws strictly forbid the depiction of Nazi symbolism in media or art, therefore the version of Wolfenstein available to the German consumers replaced all imagery of Swastikas with an insignia the creators designed. The Reich was renamed The Regime but nothing else was changed.
The game depicts the same gore, violence and destruction that fans of first person shooters have become familiar with, but lacks a storyline that is contextually relevant to the struggles of the protagonist. In many ways the censorship of Nazism in Wolfenstein is an exercise in futility of Sisyphean proportions. No gamer or person in the modern world is unsure of who the real enemy in the game is.
While it seems unfair to criticize the German government, given the difficult circumstances pertaining to their past history, the censorship of art and culture benefits nobody. Sometimes uncomfortable material helps the process of healing to begin, take for example the Freedom Cry DLC from the Assassin’s Creed universe. It illustrated the harsh reality of slavery and institutional oppression in the West Indies at the time. The game depicted the brutal treatment that the slaves endured at the hands of their owners and presented the player with a moral obligation to rescue their fellow man.
If a country such as the United States marred by its own history of slavery can allow Freedom Cry to enter the realm of public discourse, then what makes Germany and Nazi games any different? Within this issue I always encounter people who claim that actions committed in World War 2 should not be glorified for the purpose of entertainment and doing so disrespects the lives lost during that great calamity. While it is true that we must honor the sacrifices of soldiers defending the ideals of liberty, we must also accept that the freedom of art was one of the liberties that the soldiers died for.
Not all art will make all people comfortable, but if gaming is to be accepted as a legitimate art form, government should not be allowed to censor it based on its own discomfort. Good art makes us question our own positions on controversial topics and good games should not be shackled by any political regime.