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Does Wolfenstein II's brutal opening have design value?

The opening hour of Wolfenstein II contains graphic imagery and intense themes. We examine how these depictions add to the game, and what goal they serve beyond exploitative catharsis.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus has one of the most brutal opening 40 minutes ever seen in a triple-A game. It depicts intensely mature scenes featuring racism, homophobia, domestic abuse, and violence against the disabled in a bid to tie the worst of Nazism with the banality of American white supremacy. 

Compared to the introduction of Wolfenstein: The New Order, which was fairly boilerplate World War II fiction, it's a big, risky jump for developer MachineGames. But does it stick the landing? 

Today on the Gamsautra Twitch channel, we answered this question with a "yes" that came with a few major qualifications. Wolfenstein II's intro is clearly aimed at tackling big themes involving familial violence and how it links to racism in society, and there's a lot of gameplay and storytelling decisions that reinforce those ideas. We wanted to explore those moment-to-moment game design decisions, and ask what impact they might have on the overall game. 

We also had a few moments to discuss the game's depiction of Jewish charcaters, especially as it relates to lead character B.J Blazkowicz, who's finally depicted with having the (mixed) Jewish roots that former Wolfenstein developer John Carmack claimed he had a few years ago. 

We've archived the entire stream for your viewing up above, and if you're interested in a critcal discussion of how to make impactful moments in a first-person shooter, you should give it a watch. And we'd be thankful if you were to follow the Gamsautra Twitch channel for more gameplay commentary, developer interviews and editor roundtables. 

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