It was recently revealed that the latest Battlefield game, Battlefield 1 will be set during the First World War. We’ve had several trailers so far that give us a good indication of what it’s going to be like, but the big question for me though is whether it’s right to make a game like this. Is it disrespectful, or is it just entertainment?
Why World War 1 Is an Issue
The problem I have with any proposed game set in World War 1 is that it was such a brutal conflict that has just slipped out of living memory. While they have made some great games in the past that focussed on aerial combat, I struggle to see how anyone could entertain themselves by recreating brutal, mechanised trench warfare.
The only game I’ve seen that comes close to this is Toy Soldiers, but that game was clearly fictional and never depicted real events. It was a bit much when they included gas attacks though but ironically, having toy soldiers march aimlessly at gunfire was scarily close to the real conflict.
I think the most significant thing was that trench warfare was tragically one-sided, so any simulation would probably involve cutting people down or mounting an almost suicidal offence with little chance of any engagement. I certainly wouldn’t want to play a game like this and the developers would probably need to apply some sort of artistic licence to make it interesting and more importantly, acceptable.
This would be a problem for me because as I’ve said, this conflict has just gone out of living memory.
Why World War 1 Is Important
I think everyone needs to know about this period in history because it’s so important. The events leading up to the war escalated for decades and involved all of the European powers. The events following the war also lead to World War 2 and clearly shaped the world we live in today.
Aside from history lessons though, this was a brutal tragedy where unrestricted mechanised warfare effectively created an enduring stalemate that would only end when one side effectively bankrupted itself. There weren’t really any good and bad guys, there were few chances to be heroes on the battlefield and it was something that no one would ever want to live through.
Why There Are World War 2 Game
I think the first thing people will point out is that there are plenty of World War 2 games. I’ve personally landed on the Normandy beaches, defended Pearl Harbor and raided the Reichstag in games and didn’t have a problem with it. This is because it largely looked and felt like the history I’d learned and while it was perhaps exaggerated, it didn’t seem like a work of fiction.
We’ve had plenty of movies and comics over the years telling stories of all the varied and interesting aspects of World War 2. There’s also a lot out there that really brings home the realities of this war and the effect it had on millions of people.
I still have problems with some of these depictions though, as I’ve had to stop playing some games as I felt they were completely inappropriate and disrespectful. I felt one game in particular, Battlestations: Pacific crossed the line by the way it tried to depict the real life sinking of the battleship Prince of Wales. I personally considered this inappropriate and shocking given that relatives of the hundreds of sailors who were lost could have been playing this game.
We've also had games that were completely unrealistic, like Secret Weapons over Normandy and Wolfenstein, but I think they made it very clear that they were not historically accurate. We also have so many other sources, including survivors of the conflict, to educate us if we get the wrong idea from one of these games.
Why Battlefield 1 May Be a Proble
Given everything I’ve discussed so far, I’m concerned about Battlefield 1 as the action I’ve seen depicted in the trailers so far doesn’t really look like the conflict I’ve learned about. While it is a game that’s created for entertainment purposes, I think it would be very dissapointing if the people who play it aren’t given a glimpse of what this conflict was really like.
Although I don’t expect the developers to be educators, I do expect them to take responsibility and treat this subject with respect.
It’s early days though, so I have to make it very clear that at the time of writing I’m just commenting on what I’ve seen in the trailers. I think this alone is enough to raise concerns and I really hope the actual game is a lot more realistic.
I think the best way to sum it up is that unlike the Second World War, it could be argued that no one really won anything here. All we have are tragic lessons to learn and we should honour those who died by sharing them.