Despite an increased focus on historical accuracy, the game will have playable female characters in multiplayer. And that's a good thing.
Women in the military during World War II
Image source: Pinterest
Before we address arguments for and against playable females in this Call of Duty title, let's establish why the issue is up for debate: Very few women served in combat roles during World War II. It was a different time, with women in Allied countries like the U.S. not having fully attained some of the rights they have today. In fact, it wasn't until 2016 that all U.S. military combat jobs opened up to women.
That's not to say that women didn't serve in the army during World War II, though. According to History.com, more than 350,000 women joined the military during the second World War. Although their jobs did not involve combat during that time period, female military members still served in roles like ferrying planes and transporting cargo. Still, several hundred military women were killed during the war, 16 of them by enemy fire, according to Wikipedia.
Other women served in the resistances of Poland, Italy and France. Women performed combat roles in the Soviet Union, perhaps making up the largest percentage of female military during that time. And even in Germany, women served in both combat and non-combat roles. So women did fight in World War II, albeit a limited number.
Arguments for women in multiplayer
Activision and developer Sledgehammer haven't revealed what role women will play in Call of Duty: World War II's campaign, if any. Because Call of Duty campaigns typically involve multiple playable characters, there's a chance that you might play as a female resistance member or even a civilian at some point. But we do know that both male and female soldiers will be playable in multiplayer mode, which is separate from the story-based campaign.
Playable females have several advantages. For starters, female character models add visual variety to multiplayer games. Considering how many hours a typical Call of Duty enthusiast spends in the game's competitive modes, a little visual variety goes a long way. The days of two teams of identical character models facing off against each other are long gone.
Speaking of changing standards, female soldiers have been playable in Call of Duty multiplayer since 2013's Call of Duty: Ghosts – the first entry for the current generation of consoles. Not the most popular Call of Duty, but it did establish a multiplayer standard for nearly every sequel to follow. With three games already including women soldiers (Infinite Warfare inexplicably lacks them), it would be a step back to exclude them from Call of Duty: WWII for the sake of realism.
Indeed, millions of gamers have come to expect playable females in Call of Duty – and many of those players happen to be female. People are naturally drawn to characters they identify with, often of the same gender, skin color, or body type.
White men don't have to worry about character appearance so much, because white male protagonists are still the default – the most common form of playable character. We white dudes (or even just dudes in general) don't face the limited selection of characters that look like us that female gamers endure. Muster some empathy, and you'll see that women being able to enjoy Call of Duty multiplayer in the same way you do is a good thing.
The presence of female players in online Call of Duty games actually benefits non-female gamers, too. More lady players means more ladies to game with. Playing online with female gamers is a cool chance to enjoy their company for a little while ... and maybe practice social interaction, if you need to.
No, that doesn't mean you should come on to girl players or harass them. They want to be treated the same way you do, or maybe even more politely than you expect people to treat you. And while I've geared this point towards men who are attracted to women, it also applies to people who aren't. Whatever you're into, interacting with different kinds of people is good for you. The more things we have in common – such as games – the better.
Finally, playable females have one obvious benefit for Activision, the company that publishes Call of Duty: increased sales. Corporations aren't generally altruistic in nature. Most of the decisions they make are based on profitability rather than a desire to do good (with some exceptions). The increasing level of diversity in videogames, much as in movies and television, is driven by financial realities.
The more women that can be played in games, the more those games will sell to women. Excluding playable female soldiers from Call of Duty: WWII's multiplayer just to increase historical realism would be leaving money on the table. Playable women means that Activision will sell more copies of the game.
Arguments against women in multiplayer
There are really only two arguments against allowing gamers to play as women in Call of Duty: WWII's multiplayer. The big one that pops up in practically every online discussion is that of historical accuracy. As we've established, very few women saw combat during World War II, especially as infantry. So, yes, players running around as lady soldiers in multiplayer is different from what actually happened.
But who cares? We play the Call of Duty campaign for realism, not multiplayer. The goal in competitive battles in this series isn't to recreate actual events, it's to have fun. Should Axis players automatically lose a battle because that's what really happened more than 70 years ago? Nobody would want to play that game.
I haven't even mentioned the countless other concessions to reality that Call of Duty: WWII must make, such as allowing players to survive severe wounds without loss of limbs or life simply by using health packs. Call of Duty is not a simulation game, so the developers take numerous liberties in the name of fun.
Besides, the biggest argument against limiting Call of Duty games to historically accurate scenarios is actually one of the series's most popular modes: Zombies! The cooperative Zombies mode first appeared in Call of Duty: World at War, an installment based on World War II. Call of Duty: WWII will continue the tradition by including its own new take on Zombies mode.
If players can handle the presence of a historically inaccurate mode in which allied soldiers battle against Nazi zombies, surely the presence of playable women in the competitive multiplayer mode won't cause a stir. Or are women scarier than zombies to some gamers?
That's the only other possible argument against playable female soldiers in Call of Duty: WWII – women have cooties. Nobody literally thinks that, but an unfortunate vocal minority of gamers just doesn't want women around. Whether it's sexually harassing female players, or uglier actions like threatening and doxing female developers and critics, the gaming industry is no stranger to the ugliness of chauvinism, misogyny, and sociopathy.
Let them play games
Frankly, we can't do anything to convince people who just won't want women around (or think of them as less than full people) that attracting a female audience to Call of Duty: WWII (or any game) is a good idea. Their attitudes come from antipathy and xenophobia, not a place of logic and reason. Most people, thankfully, have some measure of empathy and some tolerance for people who are different from them
In any case – like it or not – female soldiers will be playable in Call of Duty: WWII. With so many strong reasons for them to be in the game, we all need to make peace with that. Historical accuracy is a fine thing, and the story-based campaign mode will certainly strive to achieve it. Multiplayer, as ever, will focus on competition and fun instead.
Call of Duty: WWII arrives on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows on November 3, and it will cost $59.99.
Lead image source: Brick's History
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