At any other time in recent history, a game about killing Nazis might not be politically relevant. Not so for 2017's Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, a game rife with controversy and a marketing campaign that angered Trump supporters and engendered a vocal response from members of the alt-right.
The Wolfenstein series tells the story of William J. (BJ) Blaskowicz, a Polish-Jewish American OSA agent who has been battling Nazis across eleven game titles since his introduction in 1982. In 2014, Bethesda released Wolfenstein: The New Order, a soft reboot that saw Blazkowicz wake from a coma into a dystopian alternate future where the Nazis have won World War 2. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus continues this alternate history in 1961, where Blazkowicz joins American resistance fighters to battle Nazis and the Klan in a Nazi-occupied United States.
Although the story of New Colossus is itself a resistance narrative, and the gameplay simply another stealth-based FPS entry into the Wolfenstein series, the response and subsequent marketing campaign have been fascinating from a socio-political perspective. A June trailer for the New Colossus sparked outrage from white nationalists for "unfairly" targeting Nazis once again as villains. Offended viewers took to 4Chan, Youtube, and other platforms to call for boycotts.
Interestingly, Bethesda responded to this controversy with a marketing blitz that played up the strong anti-Nazi message. They utilized hashtags such as #NoMoreNazis and the tagline "Make America Nazi Free Again", a clear reference to Trumpism and the "Make America Great Again" slogan. Short advertisements also featured Nazis being punched, an obvious shout-out to real world events regarding alt-right leader Richard Spencer from earlier that year. Another notable advertisement featured the phrase "Not My Country" overlayed across images of goose-stepping Nazi soldiers.
For decades the Wolfenstein series has been about killing Nazis-- obvious villains with a distinctly repulsive ideology-- and it received no uproar. Apparently in Trump's America, what might have been a forgettable game release is now an intriguing piece of political commentary.