Wolfenstein: The New Order – Dipping Its Toes Into Racism

Wolfenstein: The New Order – Dipping Its Toes Into Racism

There’s a number of subjects that are often seen as too sensitive to be included in a video game. As such it’s rare that a video game will touch upon themes such as racism, imperialism, and progression at the cost of evil deeds. Video games tend to keep their noses clean away from these touchy topics. Well, mostly. Every so often a game will dabble, make the player question the role they play in the game. Who would have guessed the no-nonsense Nazi shoot-’em-up Wolfenstein: The New Order would be a game to dip its toes into controversial waters.

It’s odd that Wolfenstein included a pretty strong–and valid–point when it comes to racism in the 1940s. The character known as J, an African-American, is questioned as to why he does not actively take part in the resistance against the Nazis. His reply is possibly one of the most unexpected (given the context of the franchise, and the game thus far). He points out that fighting for ‘the man’ (the US) was no more beneficial than allowing the Nazis to go unopposed. Under both regimes he was oppressed due to his race.


The section in which this scene happens is short, but arguably has a ripple effect throughout the whole game. It’s odd to think that, in a video game at least, the protagonist is fighting in the name of a system that was morally, and ethically, flawed. The lines of good and evil are blurred. It’s an odd feeling, to fight against an enemy with the knowledge that the cause you are fighting for is still ultimately oppressive towards a large portion of its people.

Wolfenstein is over-the-top and borderline silly in its overall look and concepts, yet the game still poses a surprising number of ethical questions. The Nazis’ actions are evil, but the resulting technology they have amassed has jumped the human race forward. It’s hinted throughout that all this destruction is at the detriment to humanity’s progression in the field of technology. On the flip side, the evil actions of the Nazis results in these progressions being the product of an evil regime that must be stopped.

The New Order is all about big, loud, first-person shooting action, but underneath the surface there’s some interesting points. J’s speech is a startling reminder that no society is truly good in the sense of absolute. It’s a short dialogue that sparks some thought on the topic, as well as giving the alternative timeline a bit more depth (the fall of the world, especially the US, in the game means no human rights movements etc). Wolfenstein: The New Order isn’t just the dumb run-and-gun shooter we expected.

Sean Halliday

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