There are women in Battlefield V, a game set during the Second World War. They’re in the game, they’re in the trailer, they’re even on the posters! And a lot of people are very upset. Is this what their forefathers fought for?
To recap, in case your job is blessed and does not require you to monitor the worst of websites like Reddit and Twitter, some folks are angry that their favourite violent multiplayer shooter, which has never been based on anything approaching historical accuracy, now has historically inaccurate portrayals of women and a black man fighting—with guns!—in the Second World War.
It’s tiring to have to face this year after year, so it’s almost not even worth pointing out—like the guy at the bottom there tries—that women served in armed forces across the world during the conflict. Mostly as support personnel, yes, but there were also examples—in the Soviet Union especially—where they served on the frontlines, both on the ground and in the air.
But like, that doesn’t even matter here. Any idea that this, of all things, is what shatters the credibility and historical credentials of a series that has long reduced the war to endless skirmishes between jeep-flipping, plane-crashing brave soldiers named 69XX_cvmlauder_xx69 is insane. Watch this trailer and tell me that, above everything else, it’s the gender and race of the combatants that seems unrealistic:
Yet that’s where we are today, because we’re talking about the words “historical accuracy” among gamers on the internet.
Those two words rarely mean what they look like they mean. At face value they appear to suggest a game has, or is striving to attain, some semblance of accuracy in its portrayal of the events of the past.
The nature of video games means that rarely happens. To capture history in a digital experience would require a developer to adapt the language, architecture, beliefs, society, and culture of the place and time being represented, and to do so knowing that the records of the past (and subsequent writings) were shaped by the prevailing politics.
To truly present something “accurate” to the time period would probably result in a game you wouldn’t really enjoy playing. What we often see in a “historical” FPS action game is just the visual trappings. And that’s okay—it’s a mass-market action game, not a history lesson.
What angry dorks mean when they say “historical accuracy” is not a game that’s accurate to the time being presented, then, but accurate to the aspects of that time (or the popular historical re-telling of it) that are sympathetic to their current political and cultural beliefs.
It doesn’t bother them that a randomly-created soldier with no training can jump behind the controls of a complex fighter aircraft, or expertly handle a cross-section of enemy weapons. They don’t care that the streets of European cities aren’t recreated 1:1, or that uniform details aren’t strictly adhered to, or that Battlefield’s war is fought to time limits and kill counts.
Those things are acceptable compromises. It’s a video game, and those are video game things that the Second World War just needs to accommodate with its representation in order to work. Yet introduce something as relatively harmless (it has zero impact on gameplay!) as women or black soldiers where historically there were none, and suddenly the sky is falling.
It’s almost as though opposition to a British woman holding a gun, or a black man serving in a combat role has little to do with “historical accuracy,” and everything about someone finding their current views on gender, race and society challenged in a space—the good old days—they thought was safe.
Battlefield isn’t, and never has been, about recreating the past. There are far more serious and studious Second World War games for that kind of business. Instead, it’s always been about letting people in the present use war as a playground. And if DICE wants to broaden the scope of those represented in those games, then that’s awesome for everyone involved.
Well, almost everyone.