The Battlefield Problem


[Cold open IRL]
There has been a lot to do about Battlefield 5 recently, a fan favorite franchise to many,
including myself and let’s be honest here, the trailer was quite a mess, whichever way
you looked at it and whatever your viewpoint is on the game itself. But now a lot of arguments are springing up
talking about for example historical accuracy and how it was or wasn’t present in previous
and current Installments of Battlefield and if DICE has an obligation here to represent
history in a certain light. So, let us have an actual look at how previous
battlefields have handled this. Is it really a case of inaccuracy or is it a case of something
else? And before I forget. Ro- Roll the intro already! [Intro] [Start act 1 Historical accuracy in previous
battlefield games] As you are probably aware the Battlefield
franchise started in 2002 with Battlefield 1942. Potentially
one of the all-time gaming first person shooter multiplayer classics. But that is not really where things started
for the developer DICE mostly known then for Volvo sponsored rally games. But this tiny
Swedish studio would aim for the stars with their acquisition of studio refractor games
who had published a little game called Codename Eagle. The first to feature the signature
refractor engine and could nowadays be seen as a sort of spiritual predecessor to Battlefield
1. But mostly because it shares the same world war 1-esque setting. This game had all the mechanics a true Battlefield
game would have. It had a rather mediocre single player for its time but also feature
a multiplayer in which you could do pretty much anything. It was the start of those crazy C4 stunt videos
made popular after Battlefield 2. Although back then it was sticks of dynamite I guess. The game was however anything but a historically
accurate retelling of battles taking place in World War 1 and was more focused on mixing
world war 1 as viewed from popular culture with biplanes, zeppelins, turn of the century
cars and trucks and Indiana jones style tanks. It also featured an action espionage setting
which was popular at the time with games like 007 Goldeneye coming to mind. And although it looks a lot like a Battlefield
game, things wouldn’t really kick off for DICE until nineteen forty-two. Battlefield 1942 is pretty much the mother
of the sandbox style multiplayer videogames and popularized the genre and spawning a full
on gaming franchise. It is however not a historically accurate masterpiece. Really are we starting off with that statement? Well alright, let’s be honest here. The
game is not a historical simulator. Although Battlefield 1942 features many things authentically
World War 2 it also has too many inaccuracies to count. Mostly because it’s not trying
to be a simulator along the lines of Red Orchestra or the new Post Scriptum. The landing on Omaha beach, a several kilometers
long beach is portrayed as a box canyon that looks nothing like its real life equivalent.
The allied forces in Battlefield 1942 use the British Lee Enfield as its sniper and
engineer weapon across all the allied factions. Historically all the factions had their own
main service rifle. The assault class, seen as the basic infantry soldier fields a Browning
Automatic Rifle or B.A.R. Historically only used as a squad support weapon. And back in
early interactions of the game the Japanese would exclusively employ German small arms
too. The Tiger tank, known during the war as a Heavy tank and employed as such is countered
in the allied team by the M10 tank destroyer. A tank with armour lighter than a Swedish
volvo. Seriously, this thing, can take more of pounding
then this thing. Historical context for the battles you fight
in is only provided by load screens. And this works because you wouldn’t want to be slapped
with exposition about world war 2 while trying to play the game. You’re not playing a documentary
after all. I do think it is important to realize that the first battlefield game in franchise
was not a historical masterpiece, a simulator like games previously mentioned but rather
aimed at being a fun, arcade style multiplayer shooter, in which it was, in my opinion ground
breaking, for its time and it wouldn’t stop there. Battlefield Vietnam would follow up 1942 two
year later and within reason it is probably the most historically accurate video game
in the franchise. The battles portrayed in it, the equipment
used and the scale of those battles comes very close to the mayor battles that were
a part of the Vietnam war. The game again provides context through loading screens.
Maps like Quang Tri and Hué are by and large based on the actual thing, but of course as
scaled down versions. Its Khe Sahn map for example looks quite a bit like the actual
thing and the complaints about equipment are far from on the same scale as in the game
that preceded it. But again, the game is much more about having fun while playing it then
portraying a completely historical setting and I think with that where stumbling into
another topic. What if the problem isn’t factual historical correctness but individual
suspension of disbelief. Are you able to accept a large amphibious
landing ship weighing more than a Huey helicopter could ever carry being slung underneath it,
and dropped on a north Vietnamese T-54 tank that is trying to shoot it down? It’s a
subjective question and its answers too, differ from person to person. And with that we could talk more about Battlefield
heroes, Battlefield 1943 and the modern and sci-fi Battlefields but I don’t think that
would serve an exact purpose, considering we seem to have hit the core issue. The modern battlefield games also don’t
portray historical conflicts. They often feature equipment or factions that exist in real life
but those games are more focused on providing balance between the factions then actually
portraying a current or previous conflict accurately. So that leaves us with one more
game, Battlefield 1. Battlefield 1 is DICE’s return to form completing
the cycle back to where it all started with Codename Eagle, Era wise anyway. It attempts to portray the horror of world
war 1 in its single player. It gives context to the war via its war stories but does not
attempt to recreate that feeling in multiplayer to a tee. It features both historical and
unhistorical battles like for example a fictional battle for the Suez Canal and the true to
life Caporeto or the Somme. Now as far I can tell “historian” Indy
Neidell and the crew at the Great War channel did do research on several subjects including
awards and potentially firearms used in the game. That part is stuck in my memory at least.
But even much of that had to be gamey-fied as not every real-life award was not perfect
fit for the games requirement. The game features period correct equipment
from rifles to uniforms and from vehicles to its behemoth system but again are employed
in a gamey manner which is demonstrated by the widespread prototype or limitedly fielded
semi and full automatic weapons or armored vehicles like the Char 2C which didn’t enter
service until 1921. Having said that there is another argument
to be made here against the games supposed historical accuracy. Another point I hear
made a lot is that the game doesn’t mean to portray the war accurately but rather authentically. So what makes a game authentic other than
the previously mentioned suspension of disbelief. The dictionary definition puts authenticity
at: The degree to which something or someone is
true to its personality, spirit or character. So basically, it poses the question, is the
game true to the spirit of world war 1? And I could argue that and give you a yes or no
answer, but Battlefields supposed authenticity is as subjective as it is personal. I could
make the argument for example that 32 players running around with semi- or fully automatic
rifles is not authentic. And hold up videogames like Verdun as being a beacon of authenticity
for showing boltaction rifles and the removal of run and gun gameplay. And you could argue the opposite. We could
both be right. To me however, personally, the only place
where Battlefield one tries to portray the war authentically, is in its Single player
with its war story “Storm and Steel” in which every time you die you portray a new
member of the Harlem hell fighters. It it tells you the name and date of birth of the
person you played as. and in my own frame of reference it perfectly describes the futility
of the fighting that happened during most of world war one. But once again, in a way it is more artistic
in its portrayal of a major battle rather than actually historic. So, armed with this knowledge, let’s look
at the new Battlefield. The trailer for Battlefield V doesn’t have
its pacing down. It’s an adrenalin fueled trip from minute 0 to minute 2 and its difficult
to focus on any specifics with so much [beep] happening everywhere. Historical accuracy
wise the same problems jump out at us as in previous Battlefield games. A Matilda tank is shown towing a German flak
gun in combat, A V-1 rocket is shown deployed as a tactical weapon. We briefly see the Churchill
Gun Carrier, a prototype tank never employed in the field and the player is seen running
and gunning with a rather heavy MG-42 in manouvers that would probably break my back. For real.
and then the most controversial topic. This British Para with a samurai sword on
his back. Which I say in jest although I have to admit
it bothered me when I first saw it in the trailer. No, the true topic of conversation
is this amputee woman. Now again we could apply both historical accuracy
and authenticity. Again, what DICE is trying to do here, as it did with previous Battlefield
games is not to be historically accurate, so there is no point to making this argument
again. A 1940’s Matilda tank is historically not going to face a 1942’s Tiger tank on
a Battlefield potentially in the Netherlands around 1944 is not a scenario that would’ve
played out. They are trying to portray the spirit of World
War 2. But that authenticity has always had to make room for fun in any Battlefield game
before it. Whereas we have discussed shortcuts have always been taken to provide the player
the best experience. It is not trying specifically trying to appeal
to the old school Battlefield 1942 slash Forgotten hope mod slash project reality or Red Orchestra
player. It’s trying or has always tried to interest the most mainstream of gamers
to it. That is what a triple-A game is and right now in the spirit of the times, Arcady
fun, ease of play, ease of control and customization options are the trend. Therefore, I think the authenticity complaint
is only valid up to a certain point. Yes, it is true that woman severed in a limited
frontline capacity in allied armies and we should talk about this. Individual woman however
played pivotal roles behind the lines, on the front lines in soviet service, in the
air or in hospitals. So, is it wrong to portray woman in such roles
in Battlefield? With an amputated arm no less? It comes down to your own very subjective
suspension of disbelief, your own willingness to suspend critical faculties to believe something
surreal. Surrealism which Battlefield has always taken inspiration and elements from
when it comes to its multiplayer gameplay. A 1940’s portrayal of the battle of Narvik
in Norway with British forces fielding the German Sturmgewehr 43, Fighting Germans driving
Tigers and Sturmtigers with Matilda tanks is nothing but surrealism, but portraying
a woman in that or an amputee would be too much? And if that doesn’t make you want to play
the game, then that is perfectly fine. Personally, I’m on the fence about it too, I barely
played Battlefield One for example and Im not sure it warrants another investment. But
I’d like to make it clear that DICE doesn’t have an obligation to historical correctness
and has never really tried to create a true to life videogame after wrapping its Volvo
racing simulators… However, I would seriously guard against mistaking
suspension of disbelief which is subjective and differs from person to person with Battlefields
own brand of authenticity. Not everyone is going to have the same opinion on this game.
And it’s not like the old games don’t exist anymore after this comes out. You can
still play those at any time. Like the original Star Wars trilogy its reputation remains unblemished. And there are of course games like Post Scriptum
and Red Orchestra. Battlefield hasn’t ever attempted a level of historical accuracy,
authenticity or simulation that those games attempt to portray. There are still plenty
of fish in the sea. And that was it for this episode of GC. Thank
you so much for watching. As an old school Battlefield player this is a topic close to
my heart and the discussion I’ve been seeing has done nothing but make me a little sad
at the state of gaming. Even though most of the discussion has been hitting the right
notes there are some who have completely derailed it. I’m looking at you /r/battlefield. Anyway, You can help the channel out hitting
the like button under this video and by turning on notifications, But I’d also really like
to hear from you in the comments. On the last video Goose wrote: TRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKS and that’s the kind of quality comment I
expect from you too [Laughter]! Until we meet again, this was Henk for GC signing off.

8 thoughts on “The Battlefield Problem

  1. I might have accidentally called the early war Valentine Tank with the short 2 pounder gun a Matilda tank on multiple occasions. Sue me internet historians. 🙁

  2. I think that while not entirely accurate, on the scale of historical accuracy in games, Battlefield scores pretty high.

    And with more and more games moving away from historical accuracy (since fiction is easier), people expect the ones that were/still are high scorers on said chart to make up for the ones moving away from accuracy.

  3. your arguments are retarded.

    Edit: I'm sorry for crude words, I mean it in a friendly way. I'll explain my stance: All those as you say "non historical" stuff in previous games were simple and NECESSARY adaptations for fun GAMEPLAY, no one literally would be able to play it without those things. Whereas adding one handed cyborg feminist woman with tattoos all over her face beating a nazi is not adaption for gameplay but taking a piss on graveyards of WW2 veterans.

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