Wolfenstein dropped hyper-masculinity to make BJ more than a “murder bot”

Sometimes killing Nazis isn't all about masculinity. Sometimes it's about family.

As much as Wolfenstein: The New Order is about killing Nazis, there was a far more human side to the story. In Wolfenstein’s extensive multi-game past, we had a hyper-masculine, hyper-gory B.J. Blazkowicz, but over the years that bolshy brute has evolved into a man with a family and aspirations. And it seems that this version of B.J. is here to stay.

In a recent discussion at Sweden Game Festival 2019 with Kristoffer Kindh, a senior level designer at Machinegames, the topic of character development arose. Compared with older Wolfenstein entries (and, for that matter, most traditional corridor shooters), the modern games go deeper than most. “They have a lot more character,” Kindh says, “they have more personality.”

If you’re familiar with the Wolfenstein series, you’ll know that B.J. benefitted from a great deal more character development in The New Order, including flashes of his past and an idyllic family life. He’s not just the hyper-masculine vehicle for guns he once was. Don’t get me wrong, the guy is still as tough as nails, but our discussion with Kindh dug up a little of why they hammered home this other side of the soldier.

It’s all about context. Kindh talks about knowing when you can be the type of game to just shoot and kill and that’s it, and knowing when you can put in some some feelings rather than just mindless death – “we should know when, or when not to implement it,” he says. Ultimately it comes down to it fitting “in the context of what you are trying to create”. To round up, he uses a comparison, to Alan Wake. If Alan Wake was just a “murder bot”, would his story have such an impact? It wouldn’t really have worked.

This trajectory into feelings and relationships in Wolfenstein didn’t stop with The New Order. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus continued the thread admirably, while the recent Youngblood expands the series’ dystopian world by following the exploits of B.J.’s twin daughters, Jessica and Sophia Blazkowicz. Their playful nature, and familial bond hints that we won’t be getting rid of the more emotional side of Wolfenstein anytime soon. For one, I’m glad that’s the case. I love a soldier that can deliver service with a smile, but it’s ok not to be ok. Y’know?