Play of the Day: Wolfenstein 3D, 20 years later

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of Wolfenstein 3D, the monumentally important first person shooter has been released for free on the Apple app store and browsers. The game still manages to be fun and the history of the first person shooter is very evident within it. Even though you can’t aim, you can still move (and even strafe!), shoot, collect items, and open doors. What more do you need? Oh right, there are Nazis. Lots of Nazis. 

The game is also playable on the Wolfenstein 3D Facebook page, where it really stands out. As a founding game in the genre that today dominates the industry, it doesn’t exactly fit in with the casual, social games that populate the site. It’s a really strange juxtaposition, many people on Facebook are playing some games they may not remember next week, while others are discovering a gem that forever changed the course of the industry. 

Along with cultural significance, there’s a really strong friction between the game’s subject, or genre even, and its context. On Facebook, most of the games are extremely accessible, designed to have extremely benign themes like farming. But this one stands out due to the fact that it’s so heavily based on shooting people, dogs, zombies etc. It’s not the first time it’s been done on the platform—I remember my fair share of Mafia Wars invites—but it may be the first time it’s been done graphically on the site. The inclusion of the game on Facebook highlights a conversation about context and platform; how much does a game’s platform determine what it is? 20 years later, Wolfenstein 3D has new life in a new era and even today it’s trying something new.

The game is free on browsers, Facebook and the Apple App Store.