When EA unveiled the trailer for Battlefield V, a group of whining, grasping, misogynistic children on the internet lost their collective minds. Brave champions of WW2 accuracy mounted tanks, planes, and jeeps to blast Dice for daring to treat its fantasy shooter that happens to clothe itself in the faintest trappings of historical accuracy as if it was, in fact, a fantasy shooter. EA’s response to this onslaught is to invite these sad trolls to do exactly what they’re forever threatening to do: Namely, spend their dollars elsewhere.
In an interview with Gamasutra, EA chief creative officer Patrick Soderlund took on the controversy directly:
On the [women] in Battlefield, this is something that the development team pushed. Battlefield V is a lot about the unseen, the untold, the unplayed. The common perception is that there were no women in World War II. There were a ton of women who both fought in World War II and partook in the war.
These are people who are uneducated—they don’t understand that this is a plausible scenario, and listen: this is a game. And today gaming is gender-diverse, like it hasn’t been before. There are a lot of female people who want to play, and male players who want to play as a badass [woman].
And we don’t take any flak. We stand up for the cause, because I think those people who don’t understand it, well, you have two choices: either accept it or don’t buy the game. I’m fine with either or. It’s just not ok.
Why the Whining Falls Flat
The problem with the “historical accuracy” argument is simple: Battlefield is not, and has never been, a historically accurate game. When PC Gamer sat down with a historian to ask about Battlefield 1, said historian noted a laundry list of historical inaccuracies, including:
And that’s before we get to the really big stuff, like, say, using a wrench to repair a horse. This was later patched so that you can only repair a horse with a wrench if someone else is riding it, because obviously that was the problem. Dice’s firm commitment to historical accuracy demanded nothing less.
It is impossible, for all of the reasons, to mount a two-man team on a horse in which one of those men sprays a flamethrower from on top of the horse. Yet somehow, this made it into the game.
Nor are these hijinks limited to Battlefield 1. In Battlefield 3, you can leap out of an aircraft, fire an RPG, destroy an enemy aircraft, and then hop back in your own plane.
You can also swap between jets, literally leaping out of one plane and dropping into another.
The launch trailer for Battlefield V shows a V-1 buzz bomb slamming into the battlefield — a blatantly inaccurate use of that munition.
If you happen to be an engineer in the Battlefield games, and your tank starts taking fire, you can hop out of it and start repairing it with a welding torch. There’s no need for material resources or any significant amount of time to perform this work. It certainly doesn’t require pulling the tank out of the field and sending it back to a repair depot for a few days or a week. Inaccuracy is fundamentally baked into the game at the core mechanic level and nobody bats an eye. This inaccuracy is intrinsically understood as useful inaccuracy. It’s inaccuracy that makes the game more fun.
Furthermore, Soderlund’s comments about the fact that women fought in combat in WW2 are accurate. While Allied countries like the US and Britain may not have fielded female soldiers, the Russians certainly did. 800,000 Soviet women served in WW2, including 2,484 snipers in the Red Army with a combined kill count of at least 11,000. One of them, Lyudmila Pavlichenko, was nicknamed Lady Death and racked up 309 confirmed kills by the age of 25 with an eight year-old child back at home.
Women fought — fought — in World War II. Depicting them as fighting for the British as well as the Soviets is not some major historical flaw — certainly not when the level of “historical inaccuracy” is calibrated to “magic, wrench-repaired, flamethrower horse,” or “Gravity-defying, plane-to-plane leap.”
Actually, It’s About Accuracy in War Ga Shut the Hell Up
Let me be very clear on this point.
If you have an actual passion for historical accuracy in war gaming — or any gaming — then you aren’t the problem. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to play games that take pains to accurately model history. There are games like this out there — PC Gamer has rounded some of them up. And if your take on gaming is that you want to play the most accurate depiction of combat possible, then by all means, you have every right to be unhappy with Battlefield 5…except if what you care about is historical accuracy, you don’t play a franchise that lets you fix a horse with a wrench.
The people fighting over the representation of a slightly broader swath of humanity in a war game on the grounds of historical accuracy don’t actually care about historical accuracy. If they did, they’d have already quit the franchise. This is about a bunch of angry man-children who are incensed at the idea that games might be enjoyed by someone other than themselves — a group so angry, so insecure, and so afflicted with a condition that transforms them to water if the temperature drops below 32 F, that they can’t bear the idea that cosmetic choices in a game might require them to acknowledge that disabled persons and women actually exist.
The idea that women and disabled people might theoretically, hypothetically, in a video game be capable of performing tasks that historically were dominated by white men is so threatening, the only response these shining examples of Western civilization can offer is to hysterically slap down a white supremacist bingo card in which vague, nonsensical forces of “cultural marxism,” “liberals,” and “elites” are attempting to destroy video games by including flights of historical fancy that these faux crusaders of moral purity find threatening. It’s censorship and pearl clutching, only instead of being dominated by the televangelists and daytime talk shows of the 1980s, we’re getting it from basement-dwelling incels, 4chan members, and Gamergaters.