You know, I had wanted to write about Detective Pikachu this week. And trust me, I still intend to talk about Detective Pikachu at some point real soon. But something else came up while I was enjoying my week and while it's probably not as time-sensitive as the Detective Pikachu movie, it is more important. So stay in your Pokeball for now, Pikachu: we've got to discuss a little controversy surrounding Mordhau.
Mordhau, in case you didn't know, is a recently released multiplayer medieval combat game where you and up to 64 players wail on each other with swords, sticks, spears, shields, and other assorted instruments of war. The combat is reminiscent of Mount and Blade, where you have to move your mouse in a specific way in order to swing your weapon in a specific direction, and skill will take you further in combat than mere brute force of superior weaponry. It's a lot of fun,
and I wish I could be using this opportunity to talk about why it's fun and maybe worth your time, but instead we gotta get all political up in this business.
So, one of the things about the game is that you can make your own mercenary to fight in the battles, and the customization is pretty strong. There are lots of choices for armor and outfits, there's a pretty respectable amount of hairstyles and voices to choose from: and if you wear the right outfit all that hard work can even be noticed. You can even do things like change colors, but since you automatically change to red or blue team when the game starts, well... it's not super-useful to the average player.
Regardless, there are lots of choices. With one noticeable exception: there are no female characters in the game.
Now, at first, I didn't think much of this. After all, this is a small game by a small team, they have a lot of other stuff going on, and the content was already fairly restricted: I figured that female avatars was just going to be one of those things that they get around to adding eventually in some future patch. And I figured -- in my foolishness, let's be perfectly honest -- that this was an uncontroversial stance. After all, people like having choices and female avatars tend to be cuter than male ones (hot take, I know) so I was just fine to wait down the time before they finally came out.
But I forget that this is the same reality where people got pissed off about female characters in Call of Duty and Battlefield. I guess I just get so caught up in worrying about actual problems I forget there are people out there who get upset over made-up ones. I forgot, in my utter negligence, that there would be people who decried any and all attempts to add female characters to the game because it -- and this is a direct quote of course -- "is inauthentic and not historically accurate".
Ugh, here we go again...
You know, the funny thing is, those cries to leave women out of the game out of authenticity concerns aren't actually the most annoying part of all this. So far, what I've found the most annoying about this 'debate', if you can even call it that, is the people who are debating the women should be included
. Not because they're wrong -- but because their arguments are based on the assumption that the people complaining about authenticity aren't wrong automatically and that their points deserve discussion on their own merits.
So we've got people arguing that because of certain historical figures -- like Joan of Arc -- and the historical precedent they set, it's not entirely immersion-breaking to have female characters in the game.
We've got people who kind of sympathize with the points being raised and suggest that maybe female characters could be toggled client-side so that you can turn them "off" if you're that worried about the game feeling real and genuine and historically accurate. And we've got people who are like "well the game isn't really that realistic to begin with
-- we've got people running around playing "Megalovania" on lutes while auto-reloading turrets can be built with a toolbox and a can-do attitude, and where you can get killed by sixteen knights throwing poop at you but you can tank those hits as long as you wrap some cloth around our wrist".
And all of those are valid enough points. Valid points that are undermined when you try to argue with these people from any position of good faith
. Because we shouldn't have to argue about historical accuracy or game feel or inauthentic experiences or anything like that. Mordhau isn't a goddamn history text. It's a video game. And if people want to play a goddamn lady knight in a video game that should be the end of the goddamn discussion.
Let's not forget we're not talking about unicorns, we're talking about a gender that makes up roughly half the entire goddamn planet.
Making concessions to make a game more compelling or enjoyable to half of the goddamn planet is not something worth debating. Video games exist to make people happy and to help people have fun. For whatever their merits as artistic mediums that can touch and change our lives forever, their primary purpose is still to help people have fun
. To enjoy themselves. To whack at their friends and strangers with pointy sticks without the irrevocable and permanent consequences of doing that in real life.
And I'm not saying there aren't times when the discussion of "historical accuracy" isn't warranted. Take for example, Kingdom Come: Deliverance. That was an extremely grounded role-playing game whose point and purpose was to emulate as authentic a historical experience as possible. The fun of that game, the purpose, why it was designed: was to tell a story in early 15th century Bohemia.
It was calling to and set in a very specific time in our history and looked to tell a story in that very specific framework. I think -- and I mean this genuinely -- that is the only time when it is "okay" to exclude half the planet. Because we were living at a time where half the planet was literally excluded and unempowered in such a way. Just like I wouldn't want a game like Assassin's Creed to skim away from issues like slavery, or trying to misrepresent it.
And that's not a randomly chosen comparison: it's deliberate. Because just like Assassin's Creed looked at slavery and racism with honesty, it also looked at them critically and with regret.
It pointed out how shameful it was that people acted like that in those olden times. In short -- it was not a point to the setting's credit
. It was a sad, inevitable acknowledgement from a more enlightened perspective.
That's why we shouldn't be celebrating
our historically backwards notions by saying that games that aren't specifically rooted in a specific point of time to tell a specific, extremely realistic story need to adhere to the outdated and unfortunate traditions and viewpoints
of whatever time period the game borrows it's ascetics from. We should be rejecting those outdated and archaic parts of our history for the sake of the people who are around today. Not because we're trying to "censor" history, but because we should be able to celebrate the good and cool parts of it without also embracing all of the awful stuff. Like, random but relevant example: we celebrate chivalry and knighthood. People can and frequently do enjoy those ideas unironically. Does that mean we've forgotten that historically knights were asshole murderers? Of course not. But we can still enjoy what Knights were supposed to be without taking away from the truth of what they were.That's the whole reason why fiction exists in the first place, you know?
But of course, we can’t ignore the simple fact that no matter how much we argue, the whole reason this continues to be a debate is because there are some people who aren’t, well… “enlightened”. The fraction of people who argue for ‘historical accuracy’ and actually mean it are few and far between,
and even then I doubt that would be the entire reason for absolutely everyone. Because I would be loathe to just outright say that anyone who doesn’t want female characters in a video game like Moudhau is automatically a misogynist. But I would say that’s probably the secret sauce behind most of these claims, and, well… if the slipper fits…
So it doesn’t matter how stupid the arguments are. It doesn’t matter what people say or how often we find ourselves in this spot. There are always people who are going to think that video games is and should be a boys club, and that any effort to change that is just SJW’s trying to ruin the “last safe space” for men.
And how on earth is anyone supposed to argue, logically or otherwise, against something that’s so wrong in the first place?