Last night, EA and DICE revealed the, somewhat illogically named, Battlefield 1 on Twitch and all the rumours were true, the next entry in the Battlefield franchise is taking us to World War One. While we didn’t get to see any in-game action, the sizzle trailer was exciting and gave a hint towards the gameplay dynamics we will see. I can’t fault it on that front, but something gave me pause for thought during the presentation – the seeming glorification of war. It made me wonder, where was the respect?
I’ll preface this by saying that I will still probably buy Battlefield 1 and have great fun playing it. If that makes me a hypocrite for criticising the tone of the presentation, then so be it.
It’s true, World War One was the first truly industrial war where technological advances came about at a stunning rate. But these were advances in ways of war, which went towards contributing to the death of over 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians. While the exact figures are disputed, in the Battle of the Somme alone, there were over 1 million combat casualties across both sides of the conflict. On the first day of the Battle, the British Fourth Army alone suffered 57,470 casualties, of which 19,240 men were killed.
I don’t want to criticise any individuals who were involved in the Twitch live stream specifically, (and the might have been inadvertent, English isn’t the first language of the DICE personnel on stage) more that the tone of the event didn’t feel right. One comment from the stream stood out to me in particular:
You get to experience the dawn of all out war, which is unmatched on an epic scale. The incredibly divergent technology they used, is just fantastic.
Other comments abounded about the the joys of bringing the experience of hand-to-hand combat to players and the game is called Battlefield 1, because the First World War was the genesis of modern warfare.
Even the official EA press release announcing the game makes the same type of comments:
Set against the backdrop of World War 1, witness the birth of modern warfare, as the Great War saw a furious arms race with new machines and weapons created to get the upper hand during the most technologically divergent war of all time. Feel the intensity and immersion as Battlefield 1 takes advantage of this modern arsenal to deliver the experience fans love, but with a fresh and modern twist.
Don’t get me wrong, I know any war game can be accused of being disrespectful to the events, and some people will always have an aversion to people making money based on the suffering of events in history. But I don’t think many games, or films, have been announced with such a crass tone.
I’ve got no personal problem with the setting of the game itself, rather some of the comments that have been used to describe it. I might be proven wrong, EA and DICE might row back on the hype and pay their respects for those involved in the War, I hope they do. Of course, there will also be a singleplayer campaign in Battlefield 1. In the past, games like Medal of Honour and the original Call of Duty titles have crafted great experiences, while also containing an element of respect for the victims of World War Two. Maybe the story in Battlefield 1 will be a bit more restrained, only time will tell.