As soon as Battlefield V was released in 2018, there was an immediate outcry about the packaging and posters, and the game itself, featuring female characters. People complained about the historical inaccuracy of including females on the front line.
“Give me female Russian snipers, by all means,” one critic wrote, “but British women on the Frontlines? Come on!”
Lead designer Lars Gustavsson, who plays with his own 13-year-old daughter, was surprised by the negative reaction to including female characters, especially since so many fans asked for it. He told The Verge, “If I got a dollar for every interview I’ve been in through the years, where people challenged us about not having female soldiers, I would be a rich man,” he says. “So it’s actually quite mind-blowing.”
Battlefield, like any good video game, is historically inspired more than historically accurate. To play it, users must accept a lot of creative compromise: that a randomly-created soldier without any training can be an instant expert on all weapons or jump into the cockpit of a fighter plane and know immediately how to fly it. War, unlike video games, isn’t generally decided by kill counts and time limits.
Regardless, and despite what our history books focused on, the inclusion of women on the Front lines during World War II is not historically inaccurate. Women were snipers as well as fighter pilots. Britain, specifically, had women actively serving since the First World War. There was the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) or “the Wrens,” the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) or “the Waffs,” and the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), who helped manage the Anti-Aircraft Command of the Royal Artillery, known as ‘ack-ack.’ Over 700 service women were killed in duty in the ATS alone.
Why haven’t we heard about these women? One of them, Vee Robinson, an “Ack-Ack Girl” explained to the BBC in a 2003 interview that “the use of girls was not generally known to the ‘outside world'” because they were “not allowed to talk about their work.” Perhaps because during that era it was unseemly to admit that women were needed to help fight the Axis powers. But plenty of them did. We’re reminded of Ygritte’s shock in Game of Thrones upon learning that women in the south didn’t participate in warfare because of their delicate sensibilities.
“Why would a girl see blood and collapse?” she asked. “Girls see more blood than boys!”
So when you suit up and play a female character in Battlefield V, know that you are honoring the brave women who came before us and did give their all for the fight.
P.S. — If you’re interested in other historical warfare games with women characters, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has that option, and Call of Duty: WWII includes a female French Resistance officer.