Battlefield 1 Brings History Back to Video Games

Battlefield 1, developed by Digital Illusions CE (DICE) and published by Electronic Arts (EA), released on October 21.  The first-person shooter game is the first in the Battlefield franchise and one of the very few video games to be set during the First World War.  Its historical setting is very important in a time when video games, particularly first-person shooters, are often presented in futuristic and science fiction settings.

Battlefield 1’s title is stylized to emphasize its connection to World War I.  The game has received generally positive reviews from video game critics, and they are well deserved.  I have played the Battlefield games for several years now.  This is definitely the best Battlefield game since Battlefield: Bad Company 2, but what really makes this game special is its historical setting.

As stated earlier, very few games have been set during World War I.  Aside from this game, the last World War I game I played was Valiant Hearts: The Great War, a lovely, small independent title.  Battlefield 1 is possibly the first AAA title to bring players into this horrific conflict.  The game has one of the better single-player experiences of the Battlefield titles, but it’s far from spectacular, since its online multiplayer is its major focus.


Before I get into all the historical beauty of the video game, I want to go ahead and critic some of its historical inaccuracies. Battlefield 1 does have a lot of historical accuracies, and it is evident that DICE spent a lot of time researching the war in order to design the entire game, but that does come at some compromises. The game plays like other Battlefield titles. The beginning of modern warfare is accommodated for modern gameplay. Because of that, the game is filled with many experimental weapons and gadgets. The image of thousands of soldiers with bolt-action rifles, charging at each other’s trenches, is not the image of the game’s general gameplay experience.


Though the player can choose to play with an old Lee-Enfield or Gewher 98 rifle with iron sights and a bayonet, expect for most of the other players to being using semi-automatic rifles, sub-machine guns, and self-carried light machine guns—equipment that was extremely rare in the war. Also the game forgot to include the French and Russian militaries and the brutal Battle of the Somme, an offensive whose 100th anniversary was this past summer, were ignored. Rumor has it, they’ll be sold to us as downloadable content. That’s the modern game industry for you.

Even though the game does accommodate to modern gamers, I still have to give DICE enormous credit for bringing this 100 year old conflict to modern audiences. I even have to give EA, a very polarizing company, some credit for green-lighting the project. Of 2016’s four major first-person shooter titles, Deus-Ex: Mankind Divided, Titanfall 2, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and Battlefield 1, DICE’s game is the only one set in a historical setting. The others are science fiction games set in the future.

Historical settings aren’t anything new in video games. The Battlefield franchise originally launched as a World War II title back in 2002. This was a time when most military shooters were set in World War II. However, the series that really captured the historical backdrops was Call of Duty. The Call of Duty franchise has had several games set in World War II and other historical periods during the Cold War. Aside from Call of Duty, other major franchises have been set in history like the Assassin’s Creed games, where history completely surrounds the series, and the Metal Gear Solid games that explored different decades of the Cold War.

As a teenager, I grew up playing a lot of these historical games, especially the World War II ones. As cheesy as this may sound, I actually learned a decent amount of history from them. Of course, compared to reading a historical book, the video games are comedic, but the old Call of Duty and Medal of Honor games exposed me to things like D-Day, Operation Market Garden, and the Battle of Stalingrad. From there, I began doing my own research, and from a cultivation of many years, I am now very knowledgeable on the Second World War.

Battlefield 1 is doing the same for me. The game is exposing me and many other gamers to this depressing and tragic conflict. In comparison to World War II, the First World War was not as heroic or celebrated. This was a clash of old empires, and it ushered in the Modern Era at the expensive of millions of lives. Battlefield 1 does it’s best to capture this and remind its audience that “the war to end all wars” truly ended nothing at all.

I hope that more games follow in Battlefield’s example. The science fiction setting is not bad, and most video games are set in science fiction and fantasy settings. I’m mainly aiming at Call of Duty. Call of Duty has spent the last few years producing games in a future setting, and they have created some great games. The franchise has three developers working on their games. They produce a different title every year. I hope these developers decide to explore historical avenues again. I’m not necessarily saying the World Wars, but there have been so many conflicts that games have yet to explore. Even if they return to a modern setting, they should consider covering modern history. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now history, and it would be interesting if the gaming industry decided to explore our modern history.

All in all, as a big history nerd, I’m really glad to be playing in history again. I hope catch you on the front. Go ahead and add me on Playstation Network @KeroDaHero17.


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