When I first heard that Battlefield 1 would be taking place during the First World War, I greeted the news with great trepidation.
The First World War is an enormous subject of interest to me. While I was excited that the conflict was finally getting some recognition, I was hesitant to believe that any game could both do justice to the unfathomable conditions that the soldiers fought in, while also making it a “fun” videogame. Let’s be honest. From a gameplay perspective, there aren’t a lot of options in regards to vehicles and weaponry to be found in the First World War. This would be a shock to the system of a generation of players used to assault rifles, rocket launchers and airstrikes. Compounding that was my concern that a videogame based off such a colossal and disgusting waste of life would take away from the gravity and seriousness the topic deserves.
“Whatever”, I thought, “who knows? Maybe the devs will pull this off."
As of today, neither of those issues are on my mind. What is currently bothering me, to an extent that I’ve never been bothered by a videogame before, was the announcement that neither Russia nor France would be playable factions in the game.
What were they even thinking? This is pathetic, EA and Dice. This isn’t just a minor misstep. This is offensive to a degree I didn’t think possible for me to feel. Look, I understand that the game is clearly aimed at an American audience. And while the Americans were barely in the war, they needed to be a focus in order to hook the uneducated, patriotic and naive group of gamers that only buy war games so they can shoot enemies of the US from the safety of their own home. But the exclusion of the two nations that suffered that greatest loss of life in the conflict (on the Entente side), and the French, who fought from literally the first day to the last day and accepted surrender, ON THEIR SOIL, is mind-boggling.
I cannot overemphasize the word “disgusting” here.
How about some statistics to help elucidate my rage:
- In the very first month of the war, the French suffered 329,000 casualties. THE VERY FIRST MONTH.
- The Russian casualties for the war are beyond staggering, totaling a mind-destroying 9+ million.
- In the entirety of the United State’s involvement, the nation suffered 320-350,000.
Now, I want to be clear. In no way am I attempting to minimize or belittle the efforts put forth or losses suffered by the Americans. They were a vital and essential ally that fought bravely, and it could be argued the war would have continued for many more years without their intervention.
On the other hand, another interesting fact to note is that one of the game’s most touted historical features is the inclusion of the Harlem Hellfighters—a group of courageous African-Americans who never lost an inch of ground and not a man was ever captured. What the developers fail to mention is that the Harlem Hellfighters were forced to fight with the French because many American soldiers refused to fight alongside black soldiers. You want to focus on the American side of things? Fine, I get that. But do it properly.
No France, and no Russia…This stomach-churning oversight might be temporary, as the two nations might be included in some future DLC, but the choice not to include them in the core game as a major focus is infuriating, and yes, I’ll say it again, disgusting.
I get mad about lots of things when it comes to videogames. Half the reason I write gaming articles is as a method of catharsis to unleash my rage and irritation in a constructive manner. But really, in the grand scheme of things, crappy framerates or micro-transactions are minor grievances specific to the industry.
This though? This bothers me. When dealing with such an important and tragic event, due process needs to be implemented. I get fudging historical accuracy when it comes to making the gameplay more exciting by changing the weapons a little. But to gloss over incredible bravery and insane loss of life from two of the most important participants in a war that destroyed nations and wiped out an entire generation is unforgivable.
EA and DICE are erasing history by trivializing one of the most brutal conflicts of the 20