I enjoy watching video games being played almost as much as I enjoy playing them. Though the act of watching games can border on frustrating, especially if/when the temptation to become a backseat gamer sets in, more often than not I find it perfectly fascinating to watch another player maneuver within and manipulate a game. Watching a game unfold at the hands of another player is like watching an ever-changing movie. As control switches between the player and the game, the viewer doesn’t know what’s going to come next. And even if you’ve played the game before, events may unfold in ways new and unfamiliar, revealing things that you might not have otherwise discovered. It’s no wonder that Twitch streams and YouTube Let’s Plays garner thousands of views! As long as you don’t mind spoilers, watching games is great way to both stay informed and learn more about games.
Lest you think I’m terrible at segues (and I am), Wolfenstein and I don’t have a great history. You can click here for all the gory details, or, TL;DR, I did not have a good time playing Wolfenstein 3D back in the day. Because of it, I’ve pretty much passed on any Wolfenstein games, before or since. When Wolfenstein: The New Order was announced last year, I could have cared less. Anything Wolfenstein was simply not for me. On the other hand, my husband, a long-time fan of shooters and war games, couldn’t wait to play the game; it was tops on his to-play list. And after months of waiting, Wolfenstein: The New Order (TNO) ended up in our house.
If my husband and I have one, long-standing gaming tradition it’s that we always watch any new game’s opening sequence together. No matter the game, from Skyrim to Mario; no matter the sequence, from a thirty-second opener to a five-minute cut scene; when a game is first put into any console, we stop what we’re doing and we watch. And that’s exactly what happened with TNO. I stopped and I watched.
And I kept watching.
And I’m still watching each time he plays.
And the thing is, the more I watch, the more I kind of, sort of want to play.
It’s crazy, right? I mean, just thinking about Wolfenstein generally is enough to make angry thoughts well up in my mind. But TNO is something different, something compelling, something I feeling like I should experience for myself.
Now those feelings only go so far. The insane gun battles that require quick reflexes and eyes in the back of your head are enough to repel me from any game, let alone this one. But what ropes me back in each time I watch the game is the story and the graphics. I don’t want to spoil anything here, but I needn’t say more than the game takes place in 1948 in a world where the Nazis won World War II. Their immense technological advancements define life as the characters know it, including the main character, William “B.J.” Blazkowicz. Only he, a war veteran, was in a coma for a few years, so waking up the the new world order gave him more than just a headache. Wonfenstein’s writers did a nice job of making Blazkowicz more than just a big guy with a gun. His background is pretty interesting and it’s even more interesting to watch it develop in relation to the supporting cast.
Meanwhile, the setting of the game itself serves as a vivid supporting character itself. That anachronistic propsal, “what if the Nazi’s had won the war,” is one that’s been batted and displayed around since 1945. It’s terrifying enough knowing about the Nazi’s and their (sometimes successful) efforts concerning technology, so witnessing that scenario come to fruition in the game is slightly more horrific. Yet it’s also absolutely stunning. The devil is definitely in the details of TNO, and its details are as beautiful as they are terrible. I’m not talking about the broken bodies and tortuous enemies. I’m talking about the precisely laid controls in a helicopter, the rivets seen bursting at the seams of an elevator shaft, and the bolts and wires that hold together a mech. While watching the game, I get much more caught up in reading precisely-worded warning signs on walls than watching the movement of an enemy.
The likelihood of me actually playing Wolfenstein: The New Order are slim to none, but it’s found a supporter in me nonetheless. (Probably a good thing I don’t play it, because of the distractions and all. Not only would I constantly die because I’m not paying attention, but it’d take me hours to get out of a room because I’d want to look at e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g!) Watching the game has been a joyful, scary, and eye-opening experience that I simply wouldn’t trade for having a controller in hand.
So tell me…do you like to watch? What are your favorite types of games to watch? Are there any games that you’d rather watch than play?