EA have been forced to apologise and change the name of one of their paid cosmetic Elite characters that can now be purchased in WW2 shooter Battlefield V. As reported over the weekend by Archaeo Games, the new Axis Elite soldier Wilhelm Franke shares a name with a German anti-fascist resistance fighter, and he’s been turned into a caricature of a disfigured Nazi bad guy – itself a particular trope where ugliness and disfigurement equals bad guy.
In a statement issued to Vice, EA apologise for the misstep, but also insist that he’s totally not a Nazi because he’s not got a Swastika on him – the Iron Cross that he wears is still heavily tied to Nazi symbols, though. EA say:
We’ve become aware that one of the names of our Elites, Wilhelm Franke, shares the name of a real life resistance member in Germany during the Second World War. We want to apologize as we certainly didn’t mean any disrespect to him. We are in the process now of changing the name of our Elite in the game.
The aforementioned Elite, Wilhelm Franke, whose name we’re changing is not a Nazi, but a German solider similar to ones we already have in the game. In Battlefield V, we’re not making any political statements in relation to the real life events of WW2 and there are no swastikas in the game.
Making such a distinction is even more important here than in other instances, as Elites are purchasable cosmetics in-game. I think even Prince Harry could figure out that it’s a bad idea to charge people to dress up as a Nazi in 2019, so it’s not surprising that EA are insisting that’s not what they’re doing.
Even so, it reminds me a bit of this:
EA and DICE have put their foot in it on several occasions with Battlefield V, failing to toe the line between showing all parts of the war and respecting the actions of those who fought within it. With the game’s announcement, there was a great deal of overblown controversy at the notion of having women featured in the game, but in their search to feature “untold stories” DICE appropriated the actions of commandos in sabotaging the Nazi nuclear programme to feature a lone female resistance fighter, and toed a tricky line when featuring a German perspective in The Last Tiger single player story.
I can’t wait to see how they can cause controversy with the Pacific War content teased for release later this year.