At least a portion of Battlefield 1 will focus upon the 369th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed the “Harlem Hellfighters,” which consisted of a group of African Americans who were the first black soldiers to fight in World War I without having to enlist in the French or the Canadian armies. The “Hell Fighters” name was given to them by their German enemies, who referred to them as such due to their toughness. One of the very few black combat regiments fighting in the Great War, the Hellfighters had one of WWI’s greatest heroes serving among its ranks, with Pvt. Henry Johnson being awarded a Purple Heart years later for his contributions and bravery. When 3,000 Hellfighters veterans returned to New York, newspapers described how millions had turned out in the streets for their victory parade.
But despite the heroic history of the Hellfighters, their inclusion in the upcoming Battlefield 1 has sparked a great deal of controversy from those who are furious that developers DICE have had the audacity to make the game’s player-characters anything other than white men. The latest gameplay trailer is taken from Battlefield 1‘s single-player campaign, with it placing players in the shoes of the black soldiers that made up the 369th Infantry Regiment. However, this has proven to be too much for some of the internet’s more unsavory types, with a variety of racist and ill-informed individuals littering the video’s comments section, bleating about how the game’s inclusion of black protagonists is evidence of the “liberal agenda” or, as one commenter put it, an example of how “white genocide is real.”
The common complaint among those criticizing DICE’s decision to portray an actual combat regiment from WWI is that it isn’t representative of the reality of World War I, in which the majority of soldiers were white. According to this train of thought, the Harlem Hellfighters’ uniquely interesting story shouldn’t be retold by DICE, because most of the soldiers who fought in WWI were white and therefore the Hellfighters being included in the campaign is somehow evidence of DICE rewriting history by focusing at least a portion of their story on a relatively unexplored part of it. This theory suggests that by including a black player-character, DICE is somehow implicitly suggesting that white people weren’t involved in World War I, as though anyone playing Battlefield 1 is going to put down their controller after finishing the campaign and suddenly believe that, during a literal world war, white people simply sat at home drinking tea or something.
To outline just how batshit this opinion is, I’ve included some of the most “popular” comments in the comments section of the Battlefield 1 gameplay trailer below:
“I acknowledge that it’s historically accurate that black people served in the war, but any mention of their contributions to my country’s freedom is a result of the politically correct games journalists.”
“I could do a quick Google search that would invalidate my belief that black people didn’t serve in World War I, but racism is a lot easier to do than research.”
“Everything has to star black people, gay people and women these days, aside from the abundance of films and video games that don’t.”
“I’m only comfortable with historical accuracy if white people are the good guys.”
“Why do you play as the black soldiers who fought in World War I when there were more white soldiers? That’s totally unrealistic. On an unrelated note, I can’t wait to play the multiplayer mode that features indestructible horses. I dislike women, too.”
“White genocide is real, and this is evidenced in this video game depicting a world war that began as a result of the kind of racist beliefs I am openly harboring.”
“If you’re going to make a game based on World War I, try to represent the portions of it that I am comfortable with, that just so happen to solely feature white people.”
“Why would anyone want to portray the story of a group of soldiers that were not only so tough the Germans called them the Hellfighters, but who also had a unique perspective on the war that has thus far been rarely featured in any entertainment medium? POLITICAL CORRECTNESS, that’s why!”
“Nice job pushing your leftist agenda of trying to tell a story that doesn’t involve white people, DICE. I’m going to write that I’ve canceled my pre-order but we all know I’ve already bought the collector’s edition.”
“The liberal agenda has infested all the games. I also have very strong opinions on the casting in The Force Awakens. I haven’t felt the touch of another in a very long time.”
Aside from the rampant racism in its comments section, the gameplay trailer for Battlefield 1‘s single-player campaign actually looks pretty interesting, with it introducing a new mechanic in which the player switches between characters following each death rather than respawning. The game looks much more somber in tone than previous Battlefield campaigns – which is understandable considering it’s portraying a very real, very awful war – so it remains to be seen how this will translate to an enjoyable experience for players. You can watch the trailer below: