Last week, controversy erupted after Electronic Arts unveiled the trailer for Dice’s upcoming World War II game “Battlefield V.”
Why? Because it featured women.
The two-and-a-half-minute trailer shows several characters narrowly avoiding death in battle through buildings, in fields and atop hills along the front lines. Planes crash, bombs fall and bullets fly. Despite the bombastic setting, one thing comes across as particularly unrealistic: A woman leads the charge and fights alongside the men, and she wears blue face paint and has a prosthetic arm to boot.
Naturally, people got mad about it online, as they’re wont to do.
“Battlefield” has traditionally been a pretty realistic war game franchise. Whereas the “Call of Duty” series is more fast-paced and action movie-esque, “Battlefield” has more accurately captured at least the scope, scale and feel of historical conflicts.
I think of 2016’s “Battlefield 1,” which features a campaign split into several short stories of characters fighting in different theaters throughout World War I. It’s one of my favorite war games, in no small part due to its authentic feel.
“Battlefield V,” while still based on a real war, will apparently be far from realistic.
Some fans were upset by this. In a market saturated with historical war-based, first-person shooters, some gamers love “Battlefield” for its authenticity. Now that longstanding shooter series developers are returning to historical wars after spending years releasing games set in modern or futuristic conflicts, I totally understand some gamers’ disappointment that “Battlefield’s” first World War II-based game in a long time is not striving for the realism for which the franchise is known.
But more than complaints from gamers, I heard complaints about gamers.
After the trailer released, I saw dozens of articles bemoaning fans who dared express distaste with “Battlefield V.” Several of these articles—many of them from gaming sites—condemned upset fans as sexists or misogynists for criticizing a World War II game that stars disabled female combatants.
I don’t claim to be a history buff, but women simply did not fight on the front lines during World War II, and if they did, they certainly weren’t shooting guns using prosthetic limbs while slathered in blue face paint. It’s clear “Battlefield V” is taking some creative liberties with its interpretation of World War II, and it’s not a sign of sexism that some gamers are upset by that. All it means is they were hoping for a more realistic experience, which they’re right to expect from a “Battlefield” game.
Of course, I realize “Battlefield” isn’t perfectly realistic. The game is known for some of the ridiculous stunts you can pull off, such as jumping out of one plane and into another mid-air. But such over-the-top tricks don’t diminish the fact the games typically strive for historical accuracy.
When “Call of Duty: WWII” came out last year, some fans cried foul that multiplayer would allow gamers to play as female characters, making it possible to even play as a black woman Nazi. While the game’s story felt realistic, multiplayer was far from it, and I was one of many who criticized the developers for this. The addition of women in multiplayer in an otherwise serious look at World War II appeared to be nothing more than tokenism in a shallow quest for diversity and inclusion. It felt cheap.
But that’s not what I see with “Battlefield V.”
Right out of the gate, the developers are showing this game isn’t trying to be anything but a creative take on World War II—kind of like the movie “Inglourious Basterds”—and that’s cool with me. In fact, I welcome it. As much as I like my realistic war-based shooters, I’ve played plenty of those before. A World War II game starring a rad, trench coat-wearing woman with a prosthetic arm sounds fresh and interesting to me. I’m excited to see how it turns out.
But to those who are upset by the series’ direction, I get where they’re coming from—and it’s not from a place of misogyny. They should give the game a chance, and game journalists should stop assuming the worst of them.
Video game columnist Jake Magee has been with GazetteXtra since 2014. His opinion is not necessarily that of Gazette management. Let him know what you think by emailing email@example.com or following @jakemmagee on Twitter.