Battlefield V, set during World War II, is the latest entry in the popular Battlefield series.
It isn’t being pre-ordered because fans are upset about something in the trailer – but is their disappointment based on fact or opinion?
Battlefield V was revealed in May 2018 as the next game in the series following Battlefield 1. The community backlash was strong and immediate: Calls for boycotting the pre-orders (if not the game itself) were soon heard worldwide.
As someone who hasn’t actually followed the Battlefield series I was disgusted by this reveal on many levels, most of which were variants of ‘since when does five come after one?’ and ‘why are you using Roman numerals all of a sudden?’
However, many Battlefield fans were disgusted for a different reason: Because there was a woman with a prosthetic limb using a weapon in the trailer.
Check it out for yourself here:
“So there’s an unrealistic thing in a video game. Why does that matter, Liam?” I hear you ask from the allied HQ.
Well, a major part of what Battlefield fans enjoy about it is how realistic the series is. In fact, that’s the main selling point of the series.
Realism in Gaming VS Sexism
Given how loudly that the community is yelling about realism, I’m left to assume that you only get one life in the game and that you also die in real life when your onscreen character dies.
Or are they, you know, willing to overlook that little realism issue?
Of course they are.
And that’s not a dig – don’t we all overlook realism in order to play video games?
We’re not really crime-fighting vigilantes (Batman: Arkham). We’re not really space marines (Doom). Blocks don’t actually disappear when you stack them together. Can you imagine? Tetris would have destroyed the construction industry!
So why has the community drawn the line here in such a seemingly sexist manner?
Just for fun, let’s examine the realism of the idea that a woman with prosthetic limbs could fight on the frontline of World War II, and see what we can come up with.
Did women fight in World War II or not?
Damn straight they did!
This is indisputable. For instance, here’s a great set of colourised photos that show female Russian snipers from World War II.
The existent of these particular soldiers are ostensibly why Patrick Söderlund (who is – or was – the Chief Creative Officer of EA) refers to his former fans as “people who are uneducated” (there’s more on this later on).
But did they fight on the frontline?
That sniper article doesn’t prove that females fought on the frontline. In fact, it implies that they didn’t: Snipers aren’t used for frontline combat. By definition, they’re used for long ranged combat.
Having a sniper in frontline combat is like using a flag as a washcloth: It can be done, sure – but that’s not really what they’re for.
However, one all-female group did see infantry combat in World War I. They were called The 1st Russian Women’s Battalion of Death (which would also be a great name for an all-female metal band) and they constantly outperformed their male counterparts.
In fact, all of the ground that they gained was reclaimed because the (all-male) relief squads never got around to turning up and the 1st Russian Women’s Battalion of Death was forced to retreat.
But this is during World War I – and they presumably didn’t have prosthetics.
What about female soldiers with prosthetic limbs?
Prosthetic usage became popular after World War I, due to a large number of amputee soldiers.
For instance, Sir Douglas Robert Steuart Bader (a war hero so decorated that he basically has the entire English alphabet after his name) was in a plane accident in 1931 and lost both of his legs, which were replaced with prosthetics.
Fast forward 10 years: It’s now World War II, and he’s been captured by the Germans. The Germans are so sick of him trying to escape that they send him to the Colditz Castle P.O.W. camp which is where the Germans sent the most troublesome prisoners.
Side note: I just wrote about a literal Nazi-killing cyborg, which is something that I’m sure we can all get behind.
Anyway, the obvious problem here is that Sir Douglas isn’t the rule – he’s the exception.
And also he’s a male.
Stop trying to teach me history and just answer the damn question already.
Could there have been at least one female frontline soldier who used prosthetics in World War II?
I mean, there probably wasn’t – but it could have happened.
Imagine a scenario where a female Russian, having been a member of 1st Russian Women’s Battalion of Death, received amputation-causing wounds and therefore used some type of prosthetic.
Year later, World War II happens.
She might not be sent to the frontline as a soldier, true – but if the frontline came to her then wouldn’t she at least try to defend her home?
Is that unrealistic?
It’s just very unlikely – which is a whole different thing.
Different enough to justify the inclusion of prosthetic-limbed ladysoldiers?
This might be a good time to point out that the female warrior in the clip has a British accent, so she’s probably not Russian, which makes the scenario even more unlikely.
There’s that word again: Unlikely.
The thing is, it’s not impossible – it’s just so unlikely as to be unrealistic.
And that’s ultimately where the Battlefield V detractors are coming from on the issue.
But there’s also another reason that they’re not buying the game.
And, surprisingly, it’s not the fact that wars are responsible for literally billions of male deaths and that we should maybe try to respect that in a game series based on realism.
Good thing, too – unpacking that mess is well beyond my writing skills.
The real reason why Battlefield V isn’t being pre-ordered has nothing to do with sexism.
The real reason that the Battlefield V detractors aren’t pre-ordering the game is that Patrick Söderlund told them not to.
I’m not joking.
In this article, he says “…either accept it or don’t buy the game”.
And the Battlefield community has largely responded by not buying the game. This was famously noted in a tweet by Wall Street Journalist Sarah E. Needleman:
— Sarah E. Needleman (@saraheneedleman) August 14, 2018
You can also see for yourself that it doesn’t even appear in the top 20 US pre-ordered games here.
Further, as earlier mentioned, Patrick also insulted the intelligence of the detractors in a Gamasutra interview:
“These are people who are uneducated—they don’t understand that this is a plausible scenario, and listen: this is a game.”
So, many Battlefield fans have gotten the message that he’s saying to them ‘I don’t want you to buy our game because you’re stupid.’
In this day and age where having an inoffensive social media presence is seemingly more important than anything, the gaming community has decided that they’ve had enough of game developers being dismissive.
That’s why the Battlefield V female amputee has become a rallying point for this idea – because she literally exemplifies the fact that so-called AAA game devs are out of touch with their audience.
So why are gamers fighting against this when they’ve basically assumed the submissive position until now?
Because it’s not 2008 anymore, and companies like EA are all out of chances.
The issue isn’t sexism at all – it’s the way the games industry operates.
Well, I mean – maybe some of them are being sexist about it, but those people are so few that we can (and should) ignore them.
The community isn’t actually against the idea of prosthetic-limbed female soldiers in games.
There’s an idea put forward by the wonderfully-salty-yet-usually-inclusive YouTuber, It’sAGundam. This is basically a direct quote from one of his videos on the whole controversy but I tidied it up because he swears (fittingly enough) like a trooper:
“Nobody’s complaining about Call Of Duty with female characters, do you know why? Because Black Ops isn’t based in reality. If you wanted to make a game with female characters with prosthetic limbs then you should have done Battlefield 2041.”
Gundam’s quote clearly implies that he fully expects prosthetic-limbed female soldiers to be a part of future military forces.
That’s a very telling idea: The Battlefield V detractors aren’t ‘being sexist’ as much as they’ve picked a very problematic hill to die on.
I can relate, though.
It’s like how I’m disappointed in Star Trek Online, which isn’t about exploration or ethical dilemmas but combat. Just like the Battlefield V detractors, I’m disappointed because that’s not what the franchise is supposed to stand for.
But will they fold and buy it when it releases?
Only time can tell.
I for one hope not because this is a message which is long overdue for so-called AAA game companies – if you can’t interact with us in an appropriate manner, then we’ll keep our money, thanks.
Here’s that video from It’sAGundam, if you’re interested. Remember, he’s very sweary so just keep that in mind. The quote is about 8 minutes in.