Developer Speaks Out over Claim ‘Historical Accuracy’ Pushes White Supremacy in Games

Warhorse Studios
Warhorse Studios

PhD candidate Victoria Cooper gave a presentation at July’s International Medieval Congress in which she claimed that “the Middle Ages is a space where white supremecy [sic] is legitimised.” Cooper asserted that conservative and nationalist groups are hijacking medieval history to push white privilege.

Addressing Bethesda Game Studios’ open-world role-playing game The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, Cooper said, “Medievally-themed [sic] video games are a space where whiteness can be anchored, in a ‘happy history’ where a world is free of multiculturalism and white guilt.”

There isn’t a text version of Cooper’s full presentation, so Breitbart asked Cooper whether there were any points from the linked article above that she would like to clarify. The scholar responded that “outside of the context of the talk it’s very difficult to gather what’s really being argued. Points are elided, examples missed out, some mistakes and omissions.”

Breitbart interviewed Czech game developer Daniel Vávra on Cooper’s ideas and diversity in video games. Vávra grew up under communist Czechoslovakia’s regime of censorship, has written for the critically acclaimed third-person action franchise Mafia, and is the co-founder of Warhorse Studios, which is currently creating the medieval role-playing game Kingdom Come: Deliverance. Vávra recently came to the defense of Polish developer CD Projekt Red after their game The Witcher 3 was accused of being racially insensitive over its cast of all-white characters.

When asked what he thought about scholarly criticism of video games, Vávra said, “I am perfectly okay with it. There are a lot of things that can be done better within the gaming industry and I was always very vocal about it. The video game is a young medium that is highly limited by technology but rapidly evolving. Everybody is learning on the fly. So it’s logical that there are a lot of issues, as in any young medium.”

“We are having problems with believable characters, for example… It’s hard to have emotional dialogue with someone using just a joypad. It’s easier to shoot with a joypad,” he explained.

But he continued by saying, “I see a problem with poorly researched, biased activism based on thin air. For example, the argument we hear very often these days is that Western games are not diverse enough or that there are not enough women as playable characters. When you look at the games released today, you will find that it’s simply not true at all. The majority of western games actually do have playable female characters. They let you choose your race, etc. The vast majority. But when you say it, you are instantly attacked and labeled with some -ism. That is not criticism.”

“I don’t think there is some serious social analysis. Its politics,” he said. “There is a very vocal minority accusing games industry of non-existent crimes and giving people who dont conform to their narrative various libellous labels. It’s already created a very toxic atmosphere.”

Vávra noted an interesting trend concerning the targets that cultural critics pick: “They’re European and US developers only. Nobody is criticizing Japanese, Chinese, or Iranian developers for the lack of inclusivity in their games. It’s exclusively about white men speaking on behalf of the rest of the world and criticizing Western developers for being Western developers without any actual data backing their accusations because, as I said, the reality is directly the opposite of what they claim.”

Addressing his new game, Kingdom Come:Deliverance, Vávra stated, “I am making a game about the history of my country… all of a sudden there are people telling me that I should not make it as it really was, or how I as an author feel it should be, but as it should have been according to their political views.”

Reflecting on Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s adherence to history, the developer said, “When a swordsman plays our game, he should feel that the combat is as authentic as everything else – architecture, flora, the way people lived and spoke. It’s like a time machine. A historian’s dream come true… And we don’t try to hide anything, we are showing it with all the dirt as it really was.”

When asked about other game developers’ reactions to cultural critics, Vávra stated, “Nobody wants to be called sexist by a mainstream magazine a few weeks before the release of their game. So everybody avoids these topics at all cost, which kills any reasonable discussion, and without discussion, there can hardly be any progress. Also, when mainstream media like TV get involved, they usually follow the loudest narrative, which is very harmful for the industry.”

“Even if [developers] try to accommodate the requests, they are criticized anyway as it happened to the latest Assassin’s Creed game, which was criticized for not having a playable female [character], and when they added one, they were criticized for ‘exploiting feminism’ and tokenism,” he explained. “So you try to avoid any controversy. I don’t think this is the way to create great art. Great art is usually controversial. Life is full of controversy. Art should reflect that and challenge the way we think.”

But Vávra sees a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of gamers, themselves. He says “people just found that they are often being manipulated by the media and they also found how to avoid this. Social media like Reddit, YouTube, or various ranking sites are changing the way we get trustworthy information. People are starting to believe collective wisdom of other users more than media, and if media will not change, they will get obsolete very soon.”

Follow Rob Shimshock (@Xylyntial) on Twitter.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.