It’s safe to say we all looked forward to Battlefield 1 last October. EA Dice have firmly established themselves as virtual creators of war. Of course, this does the name, Battlefield, justice. On a recent gameplay video over at IGN, we started to wonder if such a vivid re-creation of WW1 is actually…well, appropriate.
Myself and all other members of the ATPS4 team love shooters. Who doesn’t love glory on the virtual battlefield? However, in the case of Battlefield 1, there are some un-addressed moral issues going on. The same could be said of the gritty World at War. In said game, players would find themselves at the massacre of Stalingrad, crawling through corpses. They desperately hope to avoid the clean up crew Nazis, spraying bodies with bullets. Sure, many of us remember this game fondly as the best WW2 shooter to have ever graced our consoles.
Battlefield 1 Is Great… And Awful At The Same Time
Indeed, a vivid realisation of war and all of its atrocities has always been a breeding ground for developers to push as hard as they can with realism and immersion. In Battlefield 1, a game designed by a team renowned for creating all out war in it’s many forms, have those boundaries been pushed too far? Unlike WW2, the Great War setting of Battlefield 1 is even grittier, primitive and barbaric. Let alone the sheer scale of wasted human life, compared to WW2. Yet, making a game about WW1 is fine by us. It’s hardly been done before and does at least deserve some attention in the games industry for that reason alone.
But the moral issue that EA Dice may have to face up to is the respawn system found in the opening level. As seen in the video below, each death is followed by a black screen, the name of the soldier and his dates of birth to death. On paper, this seems like a cool idea. Like an homage to the lives lost in the Great War. However, if you stick with the video at length, seeing death after death, a morbid realisation kicks in.
It’s one thing to be aware that this kind of thing actually happened in our history. Yet, it is another thing to have it so brazenly placed in front of us. Let alone to be interacting within it. Every kill made in the game reduces the significance of the lives lost as part of our history. Should we feel guilty for enjoying a game that celebrates war, using it as a source for entertainment?
Why Pick On Battlefield 1 More Than Other Games?
Normally, violence of any level is fine in videogames. Sure, the media and non-gamers aren’t so cool about it but for the most part, our moral compass never gets wobbled. All that is fine with things like Mortal Kombat and Shadow Warrior. They’re silly fantastical pieces of fiction. When games like Battlefield 1 try so fervently to depict real world events, it’s a different story. Characters in the 90% of videogames that are fictional, are not trying to be real or likened to actual people. Be they now or in the past. Yet, the idea of adding the name after every death humanises every first-person faceless soldier that you run into battle with. Which is synonymous with the way human life was wasted so senselessly in WW1.
So we’ve come full circle and back to the question. When a game developer tries so hard to re-enact the horrors of war, when do their designs become “too much”? Would it be more respectful of those who fought for us to leave those horrors alone? Instead of digging them up and presenting them to new and young generations who mis-interpret what they’re seeing as “just a game”. A juicy one up for debate in the comments below.