Writing in games is strange. It’s bigger and more complicated than writing for a film, a novel, or a song. Games can convey a plot with characters, but they can also tell stories through their worlds or through the objects left inside of those spaces. For the Best Writing awards as part of our GamesBeat Rewind year-end event, we are lauding the game that does the best across all of those aspects.
The game with the Best Writing in 2017 is …
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
Other finalists: Nier: Automata, Night in the Woods
Listen to us discuss this category in the audio version of the podcast right here:
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus has the best writing in any game I’ve ever played. It has strong characters who all feel simultaneously like fleshed out people and icons of various belief systems. As always, the story is about killing Nazis, but developer Machine Games expands on that formula by creatively playing people off a world where Nazis have so much power. You can see a sex-positive woman renounce her mother and the Nazis, you can see a breast-feeding mother leading a resistance, and you can see a survivor of Nazi violence grow as an artist in place of the language he lost.
This game also deftly navigates tones and never forgets that its origins began with Adolf Hitler in a mech suit, but its heart is what it has to say about what is happening to us right now.
Wolfenstein II is the story of a father. A bigoted misogynist father who is a business failure due to his own choices, but when the Nazis show up, he happily accepts their help and let’s them create a playing field where he doesn’t have to compete against “foreigners.” The story is also about the son, hero B.J. Blazkowicz choosing to kill his father and to stand opposed to the Nazis, despite looking exactly like them.
You see, the Nazis in Wolfenstein don’t change. They don’t have to. But what do you do when they are standing right in front of you. Do you accept them while Jews and people of color are dying? Or do you fight back despite your own personal comfort? B.J. knows that, morally, that isn’t a question at all.