As one of the founders and creative director of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus development studio Machine Games, Jens Matthies has a long history developing first-person shooters. With titles like The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (2004) and The Darkness (2007) making up a small part of his impressive resume. With The New Colossus due for release later this month, we had the chance to speak at length with Jens about his history and thoughts on the genre that has been the focal point of his impressive career.
Also, we talked about the process behind creating a sequel to a beloved title, how playing the original Wolfenstein 3D was a formative experience, and more Nazi talk than you’d expect for a discussion about gaming.
AusGamers: You get the sense, too. Not that you would need to comment too deeply on this, but there's been, obviously with recent politicising of certain things - including Wolfenstein. During the development, were you conscious of the rise of extreme right-wing parties across a bunch of western countries? Was there a feeling that, perhaps people would look at Wolfenstein and then relate that to current events?
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Jens Matthies: Well, there's a lot of dimensions to that question. One is, of course, that if you're doing a game about Nazis, and you take that game seriously, then on a very significant level that game is going to be political. There's just no way around that. That's something that we were aware of, and that's something that we embraced from the early days.
The other side, of course, it's not like we're doing a game that's a social commentary on current events. What our goal has always been is to make sure the timeless piece of art. Basically, that's what we're going for. So, we don't really let the outside world affect what the game is about, or what it's going to be, if that makes sense.
Then, of course, what happens in the real world is also a spectrum. There's arguably a difference between, let's take an example like Brexit or whatever, which on some level, might be considered a nationalist movement. But, that is very fucking different from Nazis marching in the street.
AusGamers: Oh, definitely. Yeah.
Jens Matthies: I guess the conclusion from our point of view is that it's quite disheartening to see real life Nazis marching in the streets in 2017. If catharsis is what you want, then Wolfenstein is the place.