Wolfenstein: The New Order as a player-centric continuation of dystopian narrative traditions
Wolfenstein: The New Order (2014) is a best-selling video game and first person shooter following a saturnine premise: It’s 1960 and Nazi Germany not only is ruling earth ruthlessly but has also build a lunar high tech base. Alternative fiction dealing with the Endsieg of the Hitler regime has proven to be very popular in the last years: The Man in the High Castle, Iron Sky or The Plot against America are two successful examples of counter-factual media products.
These afore-mentioned instances go hand in hand with a dystopian narrative tradition that has been established in the 20th century by authors such as George Orwell, Aldous Huxley or Jewgeni Samjatin. The writers’ artistic world design concentrates upon totalitarian states that put elaborate methods of pressure on the individual’s autonomy in order to suppress their unfolding and blooming as a zoon politikon. Wolfenstein: The New Order also taps into that kind of world building and its typical components. Thereby it is fostering the dystopian tradition. But it also transcends and thereby enhances it by its ludological experience of gameplay.
Following the arguments of Mark J.P. Wolf and Bernard Perron the actions the player can carry out out while playing a game provide a layer of perspective in order to understand who the player is inside the game as well as to grasp what they are able to do. Their experience through their abilities and actions not only builds up their expectations inside the game world but it also sets their understanding of impact she or he has on the game state.
Not only did the critically-acclaimed title create a dystopian narration by its marketing campaign and in-game storytelling but also by taking-away the player’s control over the protagonist at a certain point of he game. Hence the player becomes an agenda-less pawn in the hands of the gameworld falling in line with the ‚finest’ dystopian tradition. Taken all together my talk therefore aims to describe and explain marketing, storytelling and game mechanics in Wolfenstein: The New Order as a powerful set of tools for the ludic dystopification of a medium that is centered around a human player.
The developers and publishers of Wolfenstein: The New Order (2014) skillfully use marketing campaigning, in-game as well as cut scene storytelling, and game mechanics to set up a continuation of dystopian narrative traditions established in the 20th century. Media following these patterns focus upon the politics of anti-individualization and the transformation of the political human entity into a agenda-less spectator and heeler.