At first glance, the Twitter hashtag, #GamersAreGood is a nice sentiment. After all, it seems like an innocuous enough statement. But, in actuality, this hashtag created by member of Gamergate and friend to the far right, Mark Kern, is the gamer equivalent of Not all Men or All Lives Matter. Not only does it suggest that the gamer community isn't toxic, it's an attempt by Kern to absolve himself and his friends of the toxic shithole they are active participants in.
In the time that's followed, members of the gaming community have joined in to talk about their good experiences in the gaming community. Their message is, not all gamers are shit stacks. But gamer means something specific here, it's not referring to the vast amount of people who play video games, it's angry men, usually white, who play games and want games to only be for people like them. I wanted to write about the systematic toxicity in gamer culture but there's too much for one post, so I'll be writing a few pieces about it in the coming weeks. First up, because it's been on my radar, decoding what "historical accuracy" really means.
Historical Accuracy in Wulver Blade
Historical accuracy is a phrase that comes up a lot in the gamer community. With the, already, strange obsession people have with realism in games, people have also taken to saying they want their games to be "historically accurate" and definitely not to have any sort of perceived SJW agenda. Whatever the hell that means. Wulverblade is a bloody, arcade style brawler set in 120 A.D following the story of three guardians of the Northern Tribes of Briannia fighting against the Roman invaders. As per their dedication to realism, developer, Fully Illustrated was sure to have some Black Brittons in the game because they did research and determined that this was indeed possible and probable. Despite that, some Steam users had questions.
Steam user, "nergalsmom" saw Black people in a game set in Europe and immediately thought something was off. He sat down to ask this question, seriously, "colored," my guy? You can read the thread here. To nergal, to include Black people in a game set in Europe automatically translated to a political statement. The insinuation here is, an all white cast of characters would not be a political statement.
But it is. To say the default is white is a political statement. It revises history to suit an idea of Europe which fits with modern Western standards. The far less political statement would be to include people of color because, they were there. Or at least there's evidence to that effect and little, if any, which proves the opposite. But there's no real acknowledgement of that. The question would not have been asked if Wulver Blade included no Black people but that wouldn't make it historically correct. Instead it would make a statement about the importance of actual accuracy as opposed to what has been accepted as true by white Western standards.
A Slight of Hand
But herein lies the trick. When historical accuracy is brought up, it's usually to justify stripping anything that could be interpreted as "progressive" out of a game. I'll never forget in Mount and Blade Warband, a series which I love, where you can play as a man or woman, lead armies, and participate in political intrigue. But women can't become the rulers of a kingdom. They have to fight on behalf of men and hope to be situated well after doing so or marry into power. This was done in the interest in "realism." In a game which doesn't give a good god damn about it any other time. I mean, it has an over world and the clipping is absolutely atrocious but I loved that about it. Because games don't really need to be realistic and even when they strive for that it is an unobtainable goal. It's bullshit, plain and simple.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance What "Historical Accuracy" Really Means
In 2014, in the middle of the Gamergate trashfire, Kingdom Come: Deliverance came onto Kickstarter promising a medieval setting steeped in historical accuracy. On the surface that sounds like an interesting proposition. Even to me, that sounds cool but just wait, this has layers. So, the story of this game takes place in 1403 in war-torn Bohemia and the player takes on the role of a character in this world, not the hero, not imbuled with the powers of the chosen one, just a dude, which is an idea I'm really interested in, I've wrote about that idea before. Kingdom Come's ambition was to make a world which didn't care very much about the player.
For realism's sake, Warhorse studios said, you can't create a character you have to play as this one white dude. Nothing super wrong with that despite it being pretty bland but then the story began to unravel and it all has to do with Daniel Vávra, the creative director for said game. He is also a steaming pile a crap.
One of the questions about Kingdom Come was if the game would feature Black people, as would be historically correct according to many sources, and Daniel Vávra's response was, "No because there were no Black people."
Now I'm no historian but given the information I've had available to me, this seems off. I think it would be difficult to prove for sure that no Black people were in Briton at this time. Especially considering the proven presence of Black Moors in Spain, in Germany and beyond. People more learned than I, in this area, have also had a bone to pick with the "historical accuracy" of Vávra's Briton. It was plausible that there would be Black people there. Not the majority and there'd be no good way to argue the probability of such a thing but Vávra continued to perpetuate a narrative which was clearly cherry picked from his research.
But, this shouldn't surprise anyone, after all, "historical accuracy" has become a dog whistle among gamers. It's a word for games which are white washed and male-centered. Simple as that. And that's a shame. And if you want further proof of that, no one has waxed on about how the presence of healing potions in Kingdom Come: Deliverance breaks their "immersion" while playing it. Cause they are fucking video games and until the technology gets really, fucking advanced, which I hope it doesn't, video games will not be completely historically accurate or totally believable. They wouldn't even be fun or compelling if they were.
And this discussion is just one tendril of a gnarly mess of coded language regarding believably and immersion but, I'll get to that soon.