Whenever a first-person shooter with a major war setting releases, there is a chance a certain controversy can reemerge. People can start getting upset about whether or not women are included. Developers are in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation, as it is often historically accurate to include women, but not including them means you are meeting the demands of people who prefer a boy’s club and don’t realize what kind of roles people actually held. This is happening with Battlefield V right now, a World War II game, because the initial trailer shows women front and center. Is this about making money? Or is there a greater reason for this inclusion.
Let’s start with the history. While it may not be super visible, women did play a part in World War II. People like to say, “Oh, they were only nurses or acted as searchlight operators.” Except they weren’t. Anyone who has spent any time studying WWII, and not just focusing on what games like Call of Duty and Battlefield showed you, knows that women from the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, Germany, Canada, Poland, and other countries took part. They joined the air force, with one of the most famous group being the Soviet Air Forces’ Night Witches 588th Night Bomber Regiment. They could be messengers or scouts on the front line. They operated anti-aircraft systems. The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion was an all black regiment of women who filled roles postal clerks, mechanics and other support services in England and France. Around 800,000 were in Russia’s forces and 350,000 were in the US army. Including women in Battlefield V is a historically accurate move.
But let’s focus on some important women who were notable for their roles in WWII. Colonel Geraldine Pratt May was the first woman to be a colonel in the US Air Force, previously known for her work with the Air Transport Command. Elizabeth Williams was one of the most notable military photographers. Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jeanne Y. Pace is the woman who has served in the US army the longest. Nancy Wake is known for her role as a spy in the French Resistance in WWII. Lyudmila Pavlichenko, a Red Army sniper, had 309 kills and is still considered the best female sniper. Major Wanda Gertz was a Home Army officer who focused in special operations and formed the Women’s Diversion and Sabotage Unit. Clearly, women were on the ground and taking part in WWII. While they may not have always been on the front lines, they were present. Games like Battlefield and Call of Duty paying tribute to that are staying true to the source material.
There is also the element of inclusion. Recent figures say 48% of adult women in the US have played a video game, while 50% of adult men questioned say they have played a video game. That is a huge figure. Let’s go ahead and say that you make disposable razors. Razors are a product both men and women use. Though while us girls probably aren’t using these on our faces, we are most definitely using them. Imagine making razors, but going out of your way to never attempt to market or sell them to women. You would be leaving out people who want and need them, as well as ignoring your customers. Leaving female playable characters out of shooters is a similar situation.
People may be quick to try and argue that women were not common on the front lines. That when they did appear in WWII, they were more likely to be in a supportive role. While that is a valid point, we also have to note that these are games inspired by history. They are historically accurate, but not retelling an exact tale as-is. A little bit of fudging, to allow someone to have a character who looks like them in multiplayer, seems like a given. We know women were present, which I illustrated with a handful of examples earlier. Why not give these paying customers an opportunity to see avatars that better represent themselves in the multiplayer? Why not have a campaign that acknowledges the contributions of women in WWII?
People are okay with zombies showing up in multiple Call of Duty games, even though Hitler definitely did not have access to an undead army. They are fine with their player characters somehow playing critical roles in one major conflict after another in Battlefield campaigns. Yet when it comes to showing women in combat in games like Battlefield V, even though there is historical evidence that women were parts of armies, some people get all up in arms. Instead of relying on a knee-jerk reaction, take a moment. Go to a search engine and look up "women in WWII." Look at the figures showing how the gaming audience in the 2010's shows both men and women are equally playing games. Realize that having this diversity won't hurt you, but will help the game and other people playing.