Historical accuracy in computer games

History is an inexhaustible source of inspiration for game developers. The lion’s share of games is devoted to different historical eras. Some try to be authentic and fit the plot and narrative of the game into historical realities, like the creators of Assassin’s Creed. Others neglect authenticity and interpret historical events ironically and freely, as the developers of Battlefield V did.

Any developer who creates a game based on some historical facts has to think about historical authenticity sooner or later. Even, as the experience of the FairWin team shows, when it comes to casual games.

Casual games presuppose stylization and do not claim to be accurate. For example, the themes of many classic slots are historical eras and cultures — Maya and Aztecs, Ancient Egypt, Vikings, colonizers, Japan and the like.

The developers of casual games do not have the goal to win players over with storytelling and plot. Players are more loyal to free historical interpretations, and more often they just don’t pay attention if they like the graphics and gameplay. In the end, casual games are not played for the sake of a unique plot and experience, but simply to relax, pass the time and relieve stress.

That’s what we thought when we started to make a game in Japanese style — Kyoto Spirit. The other day we published a variant of a certain animation and received rather unexpected feedback. In the comments, people noticed that the legend on the samurai symbol was not in Hiragana, but in Katakana (in case you don`t know, these are different graphic forms of the Japanese alphabet. Katakana is now used to write words of European origin, authentic words like “samurai” are written in Hiragana).

“How can you make a game about Japan without knowing the language and understanding the culture and history of the country?”

All this made me think about whether historical accuracy is important for casual games.

Historical discrepancies in favor of political correctness

Depicting historical events is always difficult. The matter is not only in the correct representation of weapons, uniforms, locations, but also in ethical and political issues. Modern game developers, especially AAA games, are most of all afraid of accusations of racism and sexism. This, apparently, forced the developers of the latest Call of Duty WWII and Battlefield V to include in their games women soldiers and black people participating in the events of the Second World War. All this caused a strong reaction among the players. The Reddit administrators have even started banning topics about the historical authenticity of Battlefield V for sexist and racist user comments.

Generally, the developers can be understood — between the accusations of sexism and racism and the accusation of a free interpretation of history, the developers chose the latter.

Although, people criticized Call of Duty WWII and Battlefield not only for women and black people, but also for obvious historical “bloopers” like PPSh guns in the hands of the Third Reich soldiers.

If there is some kind of AAA strategy or shooter, the plot of which unfolds in a historical era, not a single review can do without discussing historical lapses. Players, being idle, notice every smallest detail and slam the creators for blunders.

It is clear that if you make a mass product, you need to be prepared for criticism and haters who will find a flaw in even the most ideal game. After all, it is impossible to please everyone, it is like being completely ethical and politically correct with everyone.

It seems to me, we should draw the line here. There are games where the plot and concept are based on some historical context. The same Call of Duty, strategies like Civilization — these are just such games. But there are games in which a historical epoch is more like stylization, and the game itself does not pretend to be historically authentic. In the first case, historical accuracy is more or less important and one must be prepared for criticism for every blunder committed. In the second case, the credibility can be neglected, if it does not hurt anyone’s feelings and does not affect the overall perception of the game. It is clear that the more popular the game, the higher the requirements for historical accuracy and the higher the ethical bar.

Well, what about indie games, the audience of which is several times smaller than that of casual or AAA games? In this case, the attitude to historical accuracy can be determined by the developer and depends on the game itself and the role of historical context in it.

What do you think about historical accuracy in game development?

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