Is Battlefield 1 an accurate depiction of war? Or another one of history’s exploited commodities? James Mott reports for The Newsroom.
Bullets crack and whistle through a hail of explosive gunfire from a nearby bunker. My shot is lined up, the winning kill … only to be ruined by the new generation of child soldier, some 12-year-old “squeaker” who has just shot me in the back. ”The little fucking rats,” I shout.
This was my first experience with EA’s Battlefield 1, echoing how it would have started for most players, running around with no sense of direction, clue or motive for a whole two seconds only to be cut down in their masses by veterans of the game.
Battlefield 1 is the latest instalment in EA’s first-person “realistic” shooter franchise, Battlefield. Released to the public last week, it scored a staggering 9/10 rating from IGN. This year players will be taken to the front lines of the First World War to play as GIs fighting in theatres including the infamous trenches of the Western Front, and the beaches of the Gallipoli Peninsula.
Caleb Gilbert, 17, a player since the game’s debut, strongly believes this game carries a great deal of educational value, as well as entertainment and excitement.
“The war stories campaign segment of the game is purely fact, based on war stories and accounts of real soldiers. This gave me a lot of insight and perspective. It was almost like an interactive documentary,” he said.
“They still tell the stories of history, they’ve just made them playable, getting the viewer involved in this new way of historical education. I think it is a great way to learn for this new generation.”
But Dr Martin Farr, an expert in modern British history at the University of Newcastle, UK, told The Newsroom he suspected the game was more about entertainment than education.
“All I can say is that it may be useful, but I doubt very much that verisimilitude is a priority of the makers, except perhaps in the violent aspects of war,” Dr Farr said.
“So I suspect the pitch is sensationalist, and the appeal prurient, but I wouldn’t like to say without having seen it.”
As a student of history, I made the assumption that the game was in a sense historically accurate with its inclusion of the war stories campaign. However the online aspect, which makes up 80 per cent of the play, is subjected to distorted truth, fabrication and/or exaggeration. Don’t get me wrong – the graphics and attention to detail is incredible from a visual aspect.
However, although it is entertaining to play, I strongly believe it is giving the wrong idea of what happened during this war. This observation was made after seeing a friend laughing while clubbing an enemy soldier with a trench spade – a horrific real-life experience which, among other parts of the game, has now been made into a virtual gimmick. – James Mott
Image screenshot from Battlefield 1