Here’s the first trailer for Battlefield V. It looks like pretty much every World War II-based shooter that’s come before, with a team of soldiers fighting through an action movie set piece version of war. It’s part cartoon, part Saving Private Ryan homage, and entirely fictional. It’s also set off another battle in the ridiculous culture wars that have taken over almost every aspect of American life these last few years. If you can’t get enough of fake outrage and bad faith arguments from people motivated by fear, selfishness and a desire to divide America even more than it already is, here’s a new thing to get angry over.
That’s right: there’s a woman in this trailer! A woman in this make-believe war game that has more in common with whatever you dreamt last night than any actual war throughout history. Oh, and also a black man. That’s riled up the coterie of disingenuous self-styled provocateurs that have channeled their bigotry into feigned offense over any media that dares to have anything other than a white man as its lead. I’m reluctant to give any of those frauds attention, but if you want to know what I’m talking about, just head over to Twitter and search the #NotMyBattlefield hashtag. Or check out any of the familiar websites and message boards where these kinds of people assemble—it’s their big topic of the day, and will probably remain so until they have something else to vent their fake grievances over.
Their argument goes that DICE is catering to “SJWs” and “non-gamers” and disrespecting history by putting a woman and a black man on a World War II battlefield. Apparently it’s a blatant act of aggression against “true gamers” to have even one woman or person of color pop up amid the swarm of white dudes that includes every other person you see in this ad. It has nothing to do with racism or sexism, they say—they’re angry because it’s not historically accurate. They’re angry, they claim, because this is blatant tokenism and an attempt to cater to the Tumblr-posting identity politics crowd—an audience that doesn’t even play games, their argument goes. They’re angry because they claim to believe that the mere presence of anybody who isn’t a white man is an inherently political act, and they want their videogames about massive multi-national conflict to be free of politics, goddammit.
Some people might believe that. The familiar faces who spearheaded this fake controversy, ones who started Gamergate four years ago or have adhered to its methods over the years, are pretty much full of shit, though. These are the same people who act like any comment or critique on a game designer’s “artistic vision” is somehow tantamount to censorship—who argue that creators should be free to do whatever they want without pressure from the audience. When those creators make a decision they don’t like, even one as seemingly innocuous as having a woman in their game, these blowhards absolutely lose it. It’s not just hypocritical—it’s proof that they don’t truly believe what they claim to. They want to provide the kind of pressure on creators that they claim to hate, and they want to do it to keep women and minorities out of their videogames.
The “historical accuracy” argument is a red herring. They don’t care about that. If they did, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of similarly unrealistic World War II action games that purport to strive for accuracy, including various Battlefield games. They can feel free to go play any of those games instead. Ignoring the fact that many women did serve in combat roles during World War II, demanding historical accuracy from videogames or any other popular piece of mainstream entertainment will eventually break you. Fiction doesn’t need to concern itself with facts. Battlefield V isn’t a history lesson—it’s a videogame where you play a superhuman soldier who’ll gun down hundreds, if not thousands, of enemies over the course of its simulated war.
The initial Gamergate movement was started by well-known misogynists and seized upon by political operators who used it as a way to exploit the resentment of young men and divert them into reactionary rightwing politics. That’s the whole point of the broader culture wars: to play on the fears and prejudices of a traditionally dominant demographic worried about America becoming a more diverse and inclusive place, and using those fears to make sure enough Republicans win elections to keep passing tax cuts for the rich and cutting regulations on business. It’s about stoking division among the masses in hopes of propping up existing power structures that primarily benefit a small, powerful elite. The ginned-up anger over Battlefied V is an incredibly minor part of this overall trend, but it shows that fake rightwing outrage is alive and well in the videogame world.
The anger over Battlefield V isn’t about historical accuracy in videogames. It’s not about “respecting” World War II veterans. It’s about using the culture wars to distract, divide and dehumanize in an effort to maintain the status quo. It’s a transparent farce, and the sooner people start ignoring insincere complaints like this the better.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s comedy and games sections. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.