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Videogame Historical Revisionism
Genji 2 is an action game which is based on Japanese history. Being based on history, the stages of the game will also be based on famous battles which actually took place in ancient Japan. So, here's this Giant Enemy Crab..."
— Bill Ritch pitching the "historical realism" of Genji 2
The practice of misrepresenting facts in an historical setting, even when it would make no change to gameplay to be true to history. Games set during World War II
are especially prone to this. Sometimes this is due to mere ignorance on part of the developers, other times it is deliberate distortion to express a political agenda
or appeal to a certain market, in certain cases it could be just for simplicity
or for artistic purposes, and in yet other cases it is a consequence of censorship laws
prohibiting displaying certain emblems
or referencing certain facts. Occasionally it is a result of seeking better game balance
, such as nerfing
a faction that historically would have been absurdly more powerful
than its ingame "rivals".
is a specific example of this.
See also Historical Villain Upgrade
, Politically Correct History
, Artistic License - History
, Selective Historical Armoury
and Stupid Jetpack Hitler
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- The original Hidden & Dangerous had missions set in Italy, Hungary and Romania where any and all enemies wore German uniforms and carried German weapons, thus creating the impression that these countries were occupied rather than (as is historical) allies of the National Socialists. Said game also featured a U-Boat base in occupied Norway located by itself out in some desolate area by something referred to as a "loch" (should have been a "fjord").
- Historically, German U-Boat bases in occupied Norway and elsewhere were located in the harbors of certain cities and towns. The game also features sabotage of a heavy water production plant hidden in a brewery. Historically, heavy water production had taken place openly since 1934 in a purpose-built factory and was thus not hidden at all. Said brewery is also located by itself on a desolate road, instead of being in the middle of an actual town.
- In Hidden & Dangerous 2, one mission involves sabotage of a German aviation research facility. This has for some strange reason been located in the Lofoten islands in Northern Norway. In other missions, you face Italians in North Africa and Japanese in Burma. In the former case, the game makers modelled their uniforms and one aircraft type correctly, but they use German small arms and the pilots seen wear Luftwaffe uniforms. In the latter case historically correct small arms were modelled. In the expansion pack Sabre Squadron, Italian troops defending Sicily were accompanied by a Tiger tank.
- Spartan: Total Warrior, an action-oriented Spin-Off from the Total War series has the Roman Empire as the main antagonists, despite the fact that Rome didn't come to power until after the fall of Sparta. Admittedly, it is somewhat bizarre that this is often cited as a major historical inaccuracy in a game which features Physical Gods, demons and Functional Magic at regular intervals.
- Sparta did fight wars with Rome, both in times of classical resurgence (but after the original fall). The fact that the Sparta in the game has huge city walls, something traditional Sparta never had, is a bit more out of place with how much it plays on the macho Spartan traditions.
- Fallout 3 changes several historical details to subtly establish that it takes place in an alternate universe. The most notable examples is in the museum of technology, where the Apollo 13 rocket and the moon lander are renamed "Delta" and "Virgo" respecively, and the American flag has a different star motif.
- The states where also consolidated back down to thirteen after the the annexation of Canada so you can see why people give it slack about not really having anything to do with the real world.
- Word of God says that the Fallout verse diverges from ours sometime after World War 2, though there's examples going even further back (such as a voice recording of Abraham Lincoln, who died 12 years before the invention of the phonograph.)
- That one in particular was based on a persistent legend that his voice was recorded on a prototype machine built by a French inventor earlier than the phonograph. Even that is excusable if you consider it to be simply a fake.
- Sengoku Basara. We could state specific examples, but we'd be here all day. Pretty much all of it is, of course, intentional, unless the developers of the series really thought Date Masamune had a motorbike horse.
- Dynasty Warriors features this to varying degrees throughout the series. Most visibly through the weapons and armour of the playable characters. It's almost certain none of the female characters ever fought, and very few personalities in the game are on spec with what is generally known or thought of among historians.
- Characters often live their historical deaths either so you can keep playing as them or because they don't have enough generals to flesh out the later stages of the game. Early games would often have Cao Cao, Liu Bei and Sun Jian living through the entire Three Kingdoms Era, as well as completely ignoring anything that happened after the Battle of Wu Zhang Plains.
- Everything that's true about Dynasty Warriors also applies to Samurai Warriors.
- Samurai Shodown is set in 1788-1811. Texas and San Francisco are part of the United States, Amakusa Shiro (1621-1638) and Hattori Hanzo (1542-1596) are both alive, Prussia is a feudal kingdom with castles, armored knights, and an Arthurian king, the White House has its modern appearance, and there are robots.
- Don't forget Jubei Yagyu (1607-1650). Don't understand why SNK didn't invent some equivalents; didn't seem to have a problem with this for Axel Hawk or Terry Rogers. (Amakusa, at least, has an in-game explanation, that he made a deal with Ambrosia to return from the dead.) As for the seaport and southern wilderness locations needed for Galford and Earthquake's stages, any Northeaster port town (like Boston) and Atlanta would've worked fine. Puzzling.
- In the Pacific Theatre of World War II, the Japanese mostly carried Arisaka bolt-action rifles; the Type 100, their only SMG, was rather rare, and production only amounted to a little over 10,000. Not so in Call of Duty: World At War, in which seemingly every other Japanese soldier packs a Type 100. The amount of man-portable automatic weaponry in the game is overdone in general.
- Part of the British campaign in Call of Duty 2 takes place during the Second Battle of El Alamein, but does not feature any Italian forces, who were predominant in the area, replacing them all with Germans, even in the Italian-defended "Devil's Garden" minefields.
- Notably averted in the Gaiden Game Big Red One, which takes the unusual step of bothering to portray the Vichy French as antagonists in the first mission, complete with more or less historically accurate weapons.
- In a similar vein, in the Call of Duty expansion pack United Offensive one mission revolves around sabotaging coastal defense guns in Sicily in preparation for the Allied invasion. Inexplicably, they are crewed and guarded by German soldiers. While there were in fact German soldiers participating in the defence of Sicily, it seems rather unlikely that they would man fixed coastal fortifications.
- Medal of Honor: Allied Assault used the maple leaf flag adopted in 1965 to represent the Canadian sector during the Normandy invasion. For accuracy's sake, it should have been the historical red ensign; however, that flag is obscure enough that even some Canadians have never heard of it. This is a fairly frequent issue in WWII and WWI games.
- Similarly, Medal of Honor: Airborne suffered from its choice of Nazi portrayal, as the elite, gas-masked, minigun-wielding stormtroopers that were Made of Iron could attest to. Also, in the first level you face Italian blackshirts, who speak their own language but carry German weapons.
- However, in the original Medal of Honor, one of the missions consists on the sabotage of a heavy water factory, which is hidden inside a hydro power plant in the Norwegian town of Rjukan, which is better, but still unhistorical. This is also a Shout-Out to the war film The Heroes Of Telemark.
- The FPS Prey has an odd portrayal of the Cherokee tribe via the Land of the Ancients. Since the spiritual realm of the Cherokee is presented as a vast range of mountains and canyons, and the game takes place in Oklahoma, you'd probably think they're a western tribe. But the Cherokee were relocated to Oklahoma from their homelands in the southeast in the 19th century: any spiritual recreation of their native lands would look like forests and rolling hills. Perhaps Tommy's tribe was originally Sioux, and got switched at the last minute. Or then again, maybe the makers were just thinking of the windswept deserts of Georgia...
- Or it might just be a projection of the area he considers home, where his family has lived for generations.
- Battlefield 1942 completely ignored how its weapons were used in actual history. The assault class of each army gets a historical machine gun which functions in-game as an assault rifle, and the engineer classes get the bolt-action rifles that were really the standard-issue weapons of most armies. The worst offenders, though, are the stationary machine guns, which do not cause a whole lot of damage, and whoever uses them stands up straight, completely exposed to enemy fire. Interestingly, the mod Forgotten Hope added historical weapons, and the result was a game which was much more authentic and more fun to play.
- The "Road to War" World War II mod for Civilization IV suffers from this. A combination of No Swastikas and No Hitler offer Unfortunate Implications that World War II was, in fact, fought against a non-Nazi military regime in Germany. The developers did release a patch later which allowed one to play with swastikas and Hitler...and German players complained that this made it impossible for them to play it in a public place thanks to German laws about not displaying such symbols.
- Not to mention the fact that the AIs of the participating countries are in no way compelled to follow the actual events of the war, or even follow a similar foreign policy. As such, you will end up with various nations making separate peaces or joining up to attack others, along with highly improbable alliances. It is essentially guaranteed that Germany will sue for peace with France after taking Paris.
- It does make for a kind of interesting Alternate History scenario, as the default non-Hitler ruler is Franz von Papen, who was the other leading contender for Chancellor.
- The North Africa Campaign map that was bundled with the original release got around this problem by having the civilizations "led" by the various actual North African theater commanders - meaning, yes, Rommel for the Germans. They still had to go with the iron cross as an emblem, though.
- The otherwise historically accurate Stronghold series is insistent on calling its typical medieval halberdiers "Pikemen" and their weapons "Pikes", despite their weapons, 6-7 foot tall axe-headed poles looking nothing like actual pikes, which are, in reality, 10-25 foot long spears (and are more typical for early modern than medieval Europe). This is more of a mistake on part of the devs than deliberate revisionism.
- The final mission in the Age of Empires II: Age of Kings tutorial scenario features William Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk. The historical Wallace fought on an open plain. In the game, the battle was presented as a siege (the only gameplay which hadn't been demonstrated beforehand). Also, Wallace survives.
- In the expansion, which features Aztec men-at-arms with European-style medieval period uniforms and broadswords made of iron, and portrayed them as actually having had a chance against Cortez, what with his cannons and inadvertently imported diseases. Though, in the game's defence, all of its civilizations have the exact same look to their units, with the exception of those that are unique to them. At least the Aztecs and Mayans weren't given cavalry units — they use their Eagle and Jaguar Warriors as a more believable footman substitute for horsemen (but with pretty much the exact same characteristics due to balancing issues).
- Age of Mythology has its on take on the siege of Troy. Besides several smaller details, most of which can be blamed on Gameplay and Story Segregation, it has several blatant inaccuracies when compared to the original story, such as the absence of Menelaos, or the issue of rescuing Helen. The slaughtering of the Trojans which the Greeks were particularly proud of, oddly goes unmentioned as well.
- Battlestations: Midway set during the period between Pearl Harbor and Midway during World War II, features John F. Kennedy in his famous PT-109 helping out the player character during the Battle of the Philippines in 1941, despite the fact that Kennedy wasn't even in the Navy when the Philippines fell in 1941 and the PT-109 wasn't even built until mid-1942.
- The World War II 4X game Hearts of Iron wisely refuses to address such things as the Holocaust, gulags or terror-bombing either in-game or on the official forum. It also has No Swastikas, which gets pretty ridiculous: Nazi Germany is shown to use the Imperial Colors of black-white-red, which they actually banned in 1934 as a "reactionary symbol".
- Bizarrely justifiable given the in-game mechanics, where each nation can either change slowly (via ministerial sackings/appointments and slider changes) or be drastically changed (via coups) to any other ideology. Which means that the Third Reich is one lucky coup away from getting a neo-Monarchist or even Communist cabinet (and indeed, the former is exactly what happens via event if the Western Allies steamroller Hitler's regime within a year or so of the invasion of Poland). As such, having the Kaiser and his comrades ruling using the NSDAP's flag would be naturally quite bizarre, and so there was a fair reason (in addition to the censorship laws) to go with the Imperial tricolor.
- Battlefield1942 also has the black-white-red Imperial German flag, with a Nazi eagle in the middle to remove any doubts.
- Hearts of Iron is Banned in China for portraying the various warlords as independent. There is a Chinese government-approved version which has a unified China and removes the (illegal in China) flag of Tibet. There are also several mods which give the Third Reich its swastikas back.
- In Empires: Dawn of the Modern World , during the Patton campaign, Patton chooses to invade Sicily to capture valuable scientists who are assisting Hitler in building a nuclear bomb. His real life, questionable choices in ignoring Montgomery's Sicily strategy apparently had nothing to do with ego at all.
- Richard's campaign is full of this as well. Scottish Highlanders that can be recruited by the English, for instance.
- Most, if not all, historical-based city building games, particularly of the City Building Series, will have you building a particular city from the ground up at a historical date, when in fact it was already an established settlement at that point, but taken over by the faction you're playing as.
- Averted once or twice in Pharaoh, where you start out with an already functional (if not in great shape) city.
- While a number of the inaccuracies in Assassin's Creed are explained away with "the Templars altered the history books", it's hard to conceal the presence of, say, a Gothic cathedral in Acre during the Third Crusade.
- Damascus is also pretty glaring: The poor quarter you get to explore, teeming with oppressed Muslims just yearning for Saladin to liberate the city? Actually the Christian quarter of the city at the time the game was set. Suggesting that this may have been intentional, the Assassins' Guild and location of the assasination are at the sites of the two largest churches in the city.
- In the "Risk"-Style Map of Medieval II: Total War (a game set in AD 1080-1525), Finland's central population center is Helsinki (which only became anything more than a small village in the 19th century), which has a castle (that was built in the 18th century). The older capital and then largest city of the country was Turku. Also, the country has a default 50-50 spread of Catholics and Orthodox Christians in the game's beginning year of 1080 (Finland's Orthodox minority has never been even close to those numbers) and is guarded by Viking raiders (Vikings were from Sweden, Norway and Denmark). This is akin to a game where the Protestant Native American Highlanders guarded the city of Washington, DC. and the Lincoln Memorial hundreds of years before Columbus arrived in the continent.
- Rectified in the sequel Empire: Total War: the capital of the Finnish province is Åbo (Turku, the Swedish capital) and Helsingfors (Helsinki) is a mere village that can develop into a port.
- Though it still misses Viborg (Viipuri), which at the time was the second largest settlement in the land, after Åbo. Possibly missed because after WWII it has been on the Russian side of the border.
- There are only two orthodox factions in the game. Bulgarian empire is a neutral Sofia region. Territory of medieval Serbia is divided between Sofia and Zagreb regions.
- Speaking of which, Sofia only became the capital of Bulgaria when the country was restored in the 19th century. The capital of the state that existed between the 12th and the 14th centuries was Tarnovo.
- In the Iberian Peninsula Portugal and Navarre are fused into a single faction, while Castile-and-León go by the name "Spain" (at the time a mere geographic term that encompassed the entire Peninsula, not one of its states).
- In Rome Total War this trope is everywhere. By the start of the game The Selucid Empire is already a rump state, Rome controls all of the Italian Peninsula and is controlled by three families and the senate, and Hellenistic Egypt has an army that would be better situated a millinium before the game and looks like it rolled off the set of The Mummy Trilogy.
- The over abundance of this trope is what spurred many player mod projects, including Europa Barbarorum and Rome Total Realism.
- Gary Grigsby's World At War series features the Western Allies being grouped together but partially immobilized by "Political Freeze" (meaning that the US is counted as being part of it prior to Pearl and the WA player can use it's industrial capacity but can't actually MOVE anything until the US enters the war- which to be fair isn't that out of wack with what actually happened (save for the inability to- say- take the massive army and navy you've been building to fortify the AMERICAN possessions in the Pacific). In addition, China is united under the KMT banner, which is probably for the best considering that China consists of about 8-9 provinces and is EASILY the weakest playable nation in the game, and including Mao and the various warlords would have rendered the Chinese all but unplayable and easy fodder for the Japanese.