Nazis in Video Games - Are We the Baddies? | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Nazis in Video Games – Are We the Baddies?

Writer Tom Moran discusses Nazis as enemies in Video Games and explores who's the real villain

Of all the video game villains to complain about, you would expect Nazis to be at the bottom of the list alongside goblins and Satan himself. I don’t think I’d be unreasonable in saying that if you choose to promote a white ethno-state and genocide, you should at least expect some light criticism.

It seems, however, that white supremacists have become the ‘snowflakes’ they so readily criticise and don’t quite understand why Wolfenstein chooses a group of genocidal maniacs as its cannon-fodder antagonists. The release of the latest Wolfenstein game, Wolfenstein II: the New Colossus, has sparked a great deal of Twitter discussion, with many calling the franchise controversial and unnecessarily political because of its use of Nazis as the villain.

wolfenstein 2

The classic game franchise has always used Nazis as the enemy though; changing them would take away from what makes Wolfenstein, Wolfenstein. Castle Wolfenstein started the trend back in 1981 and its follow up Wolfenstein 3D followed suit, while also giving rise to first person shooters and paving the way for games like Call of Duty.

We have always seen Nazis as the villains before and it’s never been a problem. Nazis choose to have political views of hatred and murder, so we can feel no guilt when we gun them down or watch them get blown to pieces, because we are making the world a better place for it. They have joined aliens and demons in the ranks of mindless enemy drones, and that's not a bad thing.

Castle Wolfenstein

Games, TV shows and films have a responsibility to show that we don’t tolerate hate as a society because they have the ability to shape people’s views, for better or for worse. So, instead of calling out Wolfenstein for making Nazi’s the baddies, we need games to do that now more than ever.

In fact, it astonishes and disturbs me that I feel the need to defend the use of fascists and racists as the bad guys in any story. I thought we settled this when we fought a six-year war, killed nearly 80 million people, and committed some of the worst acts ever seen by humanity and, unlike in Wolfenstein, the Nazis lost!

But, with the rise of the far right, there seems to be a 1930s tribute act. In Germany we’ve seen the growth of the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AFD), a slim loss for the far-right in Austria, and that’s not to mention the USA.

While the US Nazi party doesn’t have any of its proponents in government, it’s hard to deny any links between the two given Trump is supported by literal Nazis. Sure, Trump might not have been goose stepping around the Oval office- but when he failed to condemn the rally in Charlottesville, that sent a pretty clear message to the alt-right and neo-Nazis across the US.

Call of Duty Zombies

Wouldn’t it be nice though if I was just talking about other countries and not the UK? Sure, there isn’t a strong Nazi presence in the UK now, but we can hardly call ourselves completely free of hatred and racism. Since Brexit, hate crime has doubled, deportation has increased dramatically, and hateful concepts are thrown about with little regard for their impact.

The Birmingham student community has also been horrified in recent weeks by a bunch of lads at Snobs who thought the Hitler salute was a hilarious way to take a photo. Not only is it hugely insensitive, but in a world where Nazis are (somehow) a thing again, ‘jokes’ like these not only offend others, but also really intimidate those who have been victims of this type of hate.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus really has done nothing wrong in making Nazis the bad guys, because they are the bad guys. The game has merely continued what it has always done - giving us cathartic brutal Nazi killing. Whilst people might tell Bethesda that including Nazis as the enemy is ‘poking the hornet’s nest’, as the studio’s PR director said, ‘the hornet’s nest is full of Nazis, so f*ck those guys’.

So, if you find yourself questioning your moral conscience over dual-wielding fully automatic shotguns as you pulverise wave after wave of Nazi super soldiers, and you start to wonder if maybe the Nazis have it a bit tough, ask yourself, “Are we the baddies?”.


9th November 2017 at 9:00 am

Images from

IGDB, IGDB, Moby Games and Gamezone