In regards to the Battlefield V controversy, I think it’s less that “they don’t like their tiny world being threatened”, and more that: “people don’t like to feel manipulated, and since genders in video games is such a hot issue right now, they feel that trying to put women in a setting where, to their knowledge, women did not participate in, comes across as an attempt to push a political message into the games itself, and regardless of whether that message is good or bad they would rather there not be a message at all.”
In regards to the other historical inaccuracies, such as the portrayal of combat itself, I think the reason people don’t criticize that is either because their historical understanding isn’t that deep, or that they’re less hostile to it because they don’t see any implications towards modern politics.
I think portraying their viewpoint as “I don’t like wamon in my vidya gaemz!” is fundamentally dishonest. Some of the Call of Duty games which take place in more modern or futuristic settings have female characters in them, and also don’t have anywhere near the same amount of backlash. It’s not about “I don’t want my own bubble where I can be misogynistic” (at least not for most), it’s about “I want my own bubble where I can turn my brain off and stop thinking about real life for a few hours.”
I personally don’t care about the Battlefield or Call of Duty series, so I don’t have a strong opinion either way. But my personal opinion is that if a game is going to take place in a real life historical setting, they should be accurate in regards to their portrayal of gender and class roles, and if they want to put in a message about equality, the focus should either be on demonstrating why the absence of women is a bad thing, or trying to squeeze in as many women as possible where it does actually fit.
I think it does ‘whitewash’ history by portraying women in active combat roles in the armies of countries that did not historically have them, since it does downplay the sexism and discrimination of those militaries.
I think we should be asking why there aren’t any games following the story of female Russian soldiers, or the partisans/resistance members of various other countries. I think the latter would be an interesting change of pace, but I suppose most major publishers aren’t innovative enough for that.
Alternatively, they could also make a war game set in a fictional world at the same time period, where gender equality does exist. It happens a lot with medieval style games, and while some people still complain no matter what, overall everyone seems to be okay with it.
I don’t know if I said this before but I personally really like the way Cataphrak handles gender issues in this game. He has a society like Tierra, where genders are not treated equally, but then he introduces female characters like Welles and Katarina who have so much potential, but are unable to achieve said potential due to the restrictions placed upon them (and he doesn’t just focus on women - we also see this with characters like Lewes and Cazarosta). Then he has a society like Takara, which is a direct contrast to Tierra - it allows gender equality, and also happens to be infinitely more powerful (that isn’t just due to having gender equality, but it’s pretty clear that gender equality is portrayed as an advantage.)
On one hand he has a heavily patriotic aristocratic society that he is actively working to deconstruct, while on the other hand he has a society that is consistently portrayed as superior (but far from perfect, because no society is) and the genders are given equal opportunities. And none of this feels shoehorned in because it is a fictional world and he is free to decide what the confines and rules of that world should be. Yet it still manages to get the message across because these societies are very much grounded in reality and draw inspiration from real life cultures.
Sorry if I started rambling there. That turned out to be way longer than I thought it would be.