So the first “gameplay” trailer for Battlefield V dropped and people are up in arms about one detail in particular: there is a FEMALE CHARACTER(TM) in this ridiculous battle royale multiplayer extravaganza. The horror.
The argument from people like this is that it’s unrealistic to have a female soldier on the frontlines in WW2, that it’s just the identity politics people pushing an agenda, etc etc etc.
Really, that never really came to my mind when I watched the trailer. Coming from last year’s Battlefield 1, I was incredibly disappointed by that game’s attitude to historical accuracy and authenticity. For a game set in WW1 it was myopic in both its design, which felt more like a WW2 or Modern Warfare run-and-gunner with all the prototype machine guns they could get their hands on, rather than embrace the horror of trench warfare, bolt action rifles, bayonet charges, and improvised weapons. The theme should have been the savegery of industrialized warfare clashing against empire and notions of chivalry, nationalism, and jingoism. Never mind the black and black morality of empires having their poor and colonial subjects bleed for old men’s ambitions. The game failed at both of those aspects.
Now, the Second World War is a different animal in that regard, granted. Unlike the Great War, there was actually a genuine evil side. The Allies were not necessarily heroic in all aspects of war fighting either, but at least we can pretty much agree that the Allies were leaps and bounds more on the side of the angels than the Axis powers. I don’t doubt that Dice will be able to put something together in that regard.
I’m just feeling we’re regressing in terms of our storytelling capabilities about the war. While turn-of-the-millennium games like Call of Duty 2 and Medal of Honor Allied Assault, and many, many, many, exhaustively many, more games portrayed the war as more grimey and down to earth as it was, focusing on average Joes contrasted with shiny commandos, Battlefield V does feel like a sandbox instead. I don’t care that there is a female soldier on the Western Front, or a black soldier. Women and minorities have fought on all fronts of WW1 and WW2, regularly left out of retellings and historical accounts of the war due to the politics of that era. They served in factories and civil services at the homefront, they did staff work on all sides of the war, they fought with the Resistance and as spies, and on the ground and in the air on the Eastern Front. Regiments from all colonies served the British and French , and volunteers and conscripts of many ethnicities served in the Wehrmacht and SS. No, the diversity of WW2 should not concern us, but the fact that I’m getting eery Tracer flashbacks with the female squad member very much should.
Historical accuracy and authenticity is something history nerds like myself care about because most people in our society do not get their history education from schools. After the age of 18 they’ll get it from the entertainment industry. My generation grew up with greatest generation narratives, for better or for worse, and films like Saving Private Ryan and Letters from Iwo Jimo, and shows like Band of Brother and the Pacific. With the WW2 generation dying out and fascism rising once more in the Western world, there is a danger of glossing over history. Or in the case of Fortnight and Battle Royale clones with WW2 skin jobs chopping it up and mixing it with some good old fashioned cocaine for easy digestion.
I won’t be a buzz kill and tell people what to like and dislike. But I can warn and I will correct errors. And at this point I am fairly concerned with the potential negative connotations of this game and the ones that will follow.