On Wednesday, the very first trailer for Battlefield V, an upcoming WWII-era shooter in the long-running Battlefield franchise, hit YouTube. Like with other Battlefield games before it, the trailer for this one features dramatic, larger-than-life action sequences that are only possible in video games: Tanks charge through two-story houses, bullets whiz by characters’ faces within a hair’s breadth, smoking planes crash toward the ground and send crowds of soldiers scattering like frightened ants.
But something else in the trailer has inspired far more discussion. What’s that on the game’s lead art? It’s — wait for it — a woman.
Though innocuous to most, this sent a pang of insecurity and anger through gaming’s most conservative social circles. On the Gamergate-affiliated subreddit /r/KotakuInAction, posts pointing to Battlefield V’s inclusion of a female character are being used to argue the game is historically inaccurate, as though these games have ever been realistic in any way.
Others voiced their anger on the /r/Battlefield subreddit or using the Twitter hashtag #NotMyBattlefield, complaining about the trailer’s female character, her prosthetic arm and colorful face paint. (For the record, Battlefield games do tend to recreate historically accurate weapons and some historical events with a certain level of detail, but you can also use the world’s tiniest pistol to obliterate other players and jump from one plane to another mid-air. So, yeah.)
“Battlefield V reveal trailer,” one /r/KotakuInAction user wrote. “Feminists and leftists have finally ruined something incredibly important to me. This is not how my grandfather remembers World War 2.”
Of course, for every pearl-clutching Reddit post or tweet claiming the Battlefield franchise has separated from its roots, a dozen more popped up pointing out the flaws in this critique. Tweets posted by Game Informer editor David Milner, for example, used absurd GIFs from previous Battlefield games to illustrate that realism has never been the goal here — that these critiques are, more often than not, simply thinly veiled misogyny. A similar backlash popped up when it was revealed the cover of Battlefield I featured a black man.
Others noted that even if realism was the goal, including women wouldn’t be inaccurate anyway. A number of posts online pointed to Lyudmila Pavlichenko, a sniper for the Soviet Union, who killed more than 300 people during WWII.
Unfortunately, critiques of games that claim to be about integrity — but are really just coming from places of bigotry — are old hat at this point. Women, queer people and people of color have long been targets of those affiliated with Gamergate, a 2014 movement that claimed to be about “ethics in video games,” but simply resulted in targeted harassment campaigns against women and other marginalized folks in the gaming industry.
If anything, Battlefield’s inclusion of a woman front-and-center is long overdue. 2016’s Battlefield 1 was the first game in the series’ 10-year history to include a playable female character. Female characters weren’t even included — nor were they a sure thing — in the game’s multiplayer modes until many months after its release.
To their credit, those working on Battlefield V don’t seem to be caving to any of the angry foot-stomping. In response to a tweet using the #NotMyBattlefield hashtag, the official Battlefield account replied, saying the goal, above all, was to “empower player choice, diversity and inclusion.”