What if Germany had won the second world war? The video game Wolfenstein: The New Order has been trying to give an answer to this seemingly hypothetical scenario (Domíniguez 2017:71f). By combining fantasy, real-world history, and the players historical knowledge, and through the element of music, the game is reinterpreting history and the present.
The game Wolfenstein: The New Order is set in a fictional post World War II world, which is mimicking current world views including some historical facts. Within its own reality, players experience a merge between fictional and historical elements (Domíniguez 2017: 73).
This research article is primarily based on Planells’ model (Planells 2015: 95 vgl. Domíniguez 2017: 73ff) on the understanding of video games, which on the other hand got also influenced by the semantic-pragmatic model of the ludic-fictional worlds of Aristotle’s theory of mimesis (Domíniguez 2017: 73). According to this model the fictional worlds are being composed in a broader context of the real-world reality, where three stages (representing game design, play and gameplay) work together to set bridges between the real-world elements and the fictional elements. Yet music seems like a particularly strong element for creating such an intertwined authentic reality (Domíniguez 2017: 74), based on inter-world identities. These identities are being created through the representation of identities from the fictional world, and fictional particulars (replica), which simply are translations of a real element in a fictional world. Especially as the Nazi regime used their music for propaganda purposes, this could be well translated into a fictional world to build an authentic inter-world identity.
The Nazi rock ‘n’ roll music of Wolfenstein: The New Order is acting like a bridge between the imagined and the real narrative. The music is being presented as specific songs edited and published by an imaginary Third Reich-owned broadcast company called Neumond Records (New Moon Records). But the tricky thing for most of the World War II video games is the engagement within strict sanctioned rules of representation (Domíniguez 2017: 71f) that come along with such delicate topics. The over-cautiousness of the developers regarding the leaving out of specific episodes like the Holocaust and the atomic bombs and the erasing of Nazi symbols or emblems is notable. They even tried to keep the Neumond Record songs ideologically neutral. And despite the use of German lyrics (German language in video games is often associated with evil and enemies in general) and some mentioning of New Berlin and Third Reich expansion, the songs are widely interpreted as ludic and silly pieces. They are pure nazified interpretations of real-world songs and artists from the 1950s, and 1960s and they serve as a parody (Domíniguez 2017: 77f). For instance, there is a song called “Das Blaue U-Boot” from “Die Käfer” (a parody to the “Yellow Submarine”).
The use of German language, stereotypes and clichés and the audience associating these Nazi songs to certain moments in the real-world past, makes the user more sensitive to messages within these lyrics and their placement in the game. And this seems rather important, because during the gameplay Neumond songs appear only in a secondary way through radio devices and stereo sets in the game itself or through collectible Neumond LPs, that serve as a reward for the player (Domíniguez 2017: 82ff).
Even though the Nazi rock ‘n’ roll songs have been licensed, this music has mostly been used for the marketing purpose of Wolfenstein: The New Order and for adding some depth to the Wolfenstein: The New Order galaxy. But music is generally an important element when it comes to game world´s credibility and mood (Domíniguez 2017: 83ff).
In addition, there is also a fictional particular and Afro-American guitarist character called “J” in the game itself, who would be an inter-world-translation of the real-world Jimmy Hendrix. He opens a very controversial subject about the thin line between good and evil. He argues with the U.S.- American protagonist and claims that the Americans were just as bad as the Nazis, because of their racial discriminatory behavior against the Afro-American people (Domíniguez 2017: 83f). This seems rather particular, especially when being placed in a game where good (Americans) and evil (Nazis) are clearly defined and since the Civil Rights Movement never took place in this Nazi dystopia, it also seems like a well-founded argument.
At “J”’s very last moment, he found himself surrounded by Nazi soldiers, yet he decided to play the American national anthem on his guitar until he was shot to death, just after some Nazi had screamed that “J” would hold a weapon (Domíniguez 2017: 84).
So, to sum up Wolfenstein: The New Order really shows, that music can be used as a powerful and authentic tool. By integrating such a replica-element of fictional facts, real-world views and historical meaning into this dystopian game, it also increases the authenticity and historical credibility of the story itself. It even goes so far as metaphorically representing a musical instrument as weapons (Domíniguez 2017: 71ff).
Domíniguez, Fede Peñate (2017): “Heute gehört uns die Galaxie” Music and Historical Credibility in Wolfenstein: The New Order’s Nazi Dystopia. In: GAME. Games as Art. Media, Entertainment. The Italian Journal of Game Studies 1 (6): 71- 89.
Planells, A. J. (2015): Videojuegos y mundos de ficción. De Super Mario a Portal. Madrid: Cátedra Signo e Imagen.
All pictures used in this article are from pixabay.com: https://pixabay.com/de/