Why Do Gamers Get Upset About Historical Accuracy In Games?

"History is written by the victors" has been replaced by "History is written by agendas". There has been a lot of arguing recently about historical accuracy in games in historical settings such as World War II or ancient times. This week, Total War: Rome II was in the gaming news for a controversy that involved female generals appearing in the core game. Regardless of anyone's opinion on the controversy, there's a common theme coming from certain members in the games media and some gamers alike. It's the belief that people that want historical representation are misogynists and they're hypocrites because they don't truly want historical representation.

It's also a bit hypocritical when a game publication or a random Twitter user claims that games aren't historically accurate yet at the same time tells gamers to read a history book because some outlier of what they're pushing as historical accurate.

A Debate of What Is "Historical Accuracy"?

The big push is that if gamers were truly fighting for historical accuracy in something like Battlefield V, they'd want to starve to death, have players die of gangrene, die of cold or heat, remove medical revives, eliminate the ability for everyone to have automatic weapons, and anything else you can describe as "realism". This is obviously not what anyone is asking for and is just a straw man argument because no one is calling for 100% complete historical accuracy in games. It's an argument used to make people look disingenuous about their cries for accuracy and so they can attack them by calling them various types of -isms.

What gamers are asking for is accuracy to the source material of whatever historical setting a game is placed in. If you make a game based during World War II, what gamers are asking for is a setting that seems familiar to that time, and a story that fits the narrative of World War II. Ultimately, they want Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers as a playable game. Call of Duty: WW II managed to capture this recently in their single player campaign. Battlefield V took a different approach and follows the story of a female soldier with a prosthetic arm. Because of the laughable style of the trailer and the ridiculous looking characters, gamers ridiculed the game. The representation of female soldiers as the (potential) main protagonist and to feature a female soldier on the cover of a WWII game seemed to really miss the setting of WWII.

Obviously, women soldiers are historical in WWII but it's at an uncommon percentage that doesn't truly represent WWII. In fact, a lot of female fighters came from the Axis side. Only a small percentage of women died in combat during WWII compared to men. Using the outlier as the norm for a WWII game is what gamers are upset with. It removes the setting and feel of that era. It would be similar to making a game about slavery and using a black slave owner on the box just because of a few outlier examples.

Battlefield V has already felt the sting from telling their customers to shut up, not buy their game, and learn history as the percentage of pre-orders for the new Battlefield are drastically lower this time around. There's a trend of forcing women into historical settings that serve no purpose other than to win points from game journalists and people that don't play games. This trend of forcing something that wasn't heavily representing into something historical isn't new. Kingdom Come: Deliverance was bashed heavily for not forcing "people of color" into the game while claiming the game was historically accurate.And as of late, there's been a push to alter historical set games to include females when it isn't historically appropriate.
You may think that this has to do with women and the gamer's hatred for women. It's not and it's completely fabricated to misrepresent an argument. There wasn't an outcry at SEGA for having women as primary combat soldiers in the Valkyrie Chronicles even though it's based on World War II. Why? Because it's sold as a piece of fiction and not "historical accurate".

Accurate Settings Is Important Even In Fictional Areas

The idea of accuracy also extends to fictional settings as well. If something has an established canon and setting, it's equally annoying to change everything to fit something else. From years past before internet outrage mobs became a thing for society, fans of comic books and video games were upset at Hollywood directors for changing the source material to fit their artistic view of the project they took on. Uwe Boll is notorious for creating horrible video game movies that had hardly anything—if anything—to do with the source material. Fans were upset at him for obvious reasons. He was taking something established and turning it into something else.

But this idea extends to gaming in the fictional. Imagine a game based on the established lore of a popular series like Star Trek/Wars or Lord of the Rings where they changed so much of the story and established characters that it doesn't make sense to the lore. Fans become upset and demand for accuracy. Yet some of these same fans will laugh at a person that wants historical representation to be faithful to history. The irony is real.

Or imagine making Lara Croft a guy named Larry Croft. The outcry from the same people who believe fandom is toxic and use phrases such as "it's fiction, get over it" will scramble to explain why this is sexist. Or if someone turned Black Panther into a white guy, that's now racist. There's a lot of inconsistencies when it comes to outrage culture as these same people would defend a white male superhero turning into a black female. Normal people should be appalled at Larry Croft, White Panther and any hero turning white to black. Because the setting is written and changing it ruins that fiction. The same goes for history.

What Do Gamers Mean By "Historical Accuracy"?

As originally stated, lots of mockers of gamers looking for historical accurate pieces will claim that these people don't want historical accuracy; they just want to get rid of women in gaming. They'll make claims that these same gamers don't want real accuracy like bleeding out, no revives, no respawns, and the works that would make a game real life. But they're purposely missing the point so they can call someone a racist or sexist or whatever gives them internet brownie points or lets them write sensationalist headlines for their publication.

It's dishonest to claim that they're wanting gameplay to be historical accurate. One major flaw in this argument is that none of these factors—respawn or bleeding out—have anything to do with history. What's mentioned would fall under realism. Historical accuracy has every bit to do with a setting, the aesthetics, and the story being told.

Please take a few minutes to watch the first half of this documentary about Medal of Honor, a game that originally strived to be historically accurate. The details they went through to create something incredibly accurate while still making a video game drives home the accuracy in a game people expect.

While an article may try and paint someone as misogynist for not wanting women as a general in Total War: Rome II or be the leading soldier in Battlefield V, it's just an excuse used to defend a regressive attitude towards history. Call of Duty: WWII was also called out on some of it's choices before it was launched that didn't include the controversy of adding women to the front lines. They omitted using Nazi imagery in the multiplayer altogether and ever removed the idea you were fighting Nazis, something that Battlefield V also changed in their multiplayer as Nazi Germany is now just known simply as "Germany".

Entertainment media is a form of escape and immersion. The illusive immersion of reliving the past is destroyed when you have too much changed. You can get away with not having your guns jam for a more action packed and fun game. Or a movie that has soldiers doing unbelievable feats to save a brother in arms is okay for the sake of entertainment. Because the immersion is coming from the look and vastly accepted history of what the story is telling. If you buy the excuse that none of this matters, than be consistent. If a developer wants to push that Nazis were gay rights activist in the future or that Joan of Arc was a black man, don't complain. Just go with it. But the rest of us who understand why that's annoying will continue to complain and call out developers or media that calls a product accurate to history while throwing history out the window.
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The best thing about running your own website is that no one can tell you what to do. Also, video games are awesome.
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