WWI video game may raise awareness of Great War in younger audience
By Adam Bieniek
When it comes to computer video games, World War I is not a common setting. Most popular games, such as those of the acclaimed CALL OF DUTY franchise, tend be set in futuristic worlds, World War II, or in the wars of modern day. However, in October, the video game company DICE will release a World War I-themed video game called BATTLEFIELD1, the latest of their popular Battlefield series, which will be published by Electronic Arts (EA).
BATTLEFIELD1 is expected to bring significant attention to the Great War from a largely new, young audience. The first trailer for the game was released on May 6th, 2016 on YouTube and quickly garnered some 41.4 million views within its first two months online.
EA DICE took a risk with this game. There were concerns that younger audiences would not have enough background knowledge about World War I to be interested. An earlier video game, VERDUN, was launched in 2015 by M2H and Blackmill Games, to very modest results. Yet, somehow, EA and DICE were able to capture imaginations among their followers, to such an extent that BATTLEFIELD1 is predicted to be one of the most anticipated games of 2016.
This game’s release takes advantage of this current moment in history. With the centennial of American involvement in World War I approaching next year, this release will take place just as major Commemorative events begin in the U.S. There is a historical precedent. The CALL OF DUTY and MEDAL OF HONOR video game series similarly helped bring World War II to the forefront of gaming audiences for almost a decade after initial releases in the early 2000’s.
The timing of the release creates an opportunity for gamers to study the real historical places, the real people, and the real events, of World War I. While the BATTLEFIELD1 game is fictional, and cannot claim any significant historical accuracy, it may serve as an introduction for gamer audiences to the conflict as a whole.
There will be several recognizable World War I features in the BATTLEFIELD1 game. The famous 369th Infantry Regiment, better known as the Harlem Hellfighters, will make an appearance. Aviation squadrons Jagdgeschwader 1, or possibly Jasta 11, units commanded by Manfred von Richthofen during the war, are also depicted. EA DICE has confirmed that the game will be set in various World War I campaigns, such as T.E.. Lawrence’s battle against the Ottoman Empire, the mountain warfare of the Alps, and in the aviation war above the Western Front.
Battlefield 1 will be released on Xbox One, Playstation 4, and Microsoft Windows on October 21st, 2016.
See previous coverage of Battlefield 1 here and here.
Adam Bieniek is a 2016 Summer Intern at the World War One Centennial Commission.