As Battlefield is looking back through history for unique conflicts, with Battlefield V now set in WW2, it’s hard to find any war that modern military shooters haven’t covered. However, there are a ton of famous battles, sieges and campaigns from Australia’s history that have remained virtually untouched. Here’s a list of five Australian military conflicts that should be used in modern shooters.
The Boer War
A relatively lesser known war, compared to the Great War or WW2, the Boer War was Australia’s first foreign expedition. The best thing about it is that the Boer War has never been used in a military shooter. Taking place in 1899-1902, the Boer War was fought between Dutch–Afrikaner settlers and British colonial forces. Australia, still a group of British colonies at this time, sent their various colonial armies into the conflict. South Africa is a unique place to set a game and the narrative of Dutch–Afrikaner freedom fighters repelling British imperial is easy to follow. The technology of the time would significantly slow the pace of gameplay down, but as Battlefield 1 shows, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The horseback rifle combat of 1899 mixed with the guerrilla warfare of 1902 is an interesting mix that gamers haven’t really seen.
WW2 – North Africa Campaign
A conflict that is gaining more attention is the German’s North Africa campaign and rush to the Suez Canal. As Battlefield 1’s Oil of Empires operation proved, the desert is a perfect setting for a military shooter. However the key difference between North Africa in the Great War and WW2 is the sides involved. On the German side players could have the Nazi General Rommel, known as the “Desert Fox” for his strategic skill, as a major villain. Players defending against the fast paced German Blitzkrieg and hordes of Panzer units would provide fast paced and exciting action. The reason this holds significance for Australia is simple, the Rats of Tobruk. Australian soldiers were so headstrong and resilient at holding the Libyan port of Tobruk from siege that they earned the name of rats. What was meant as an insult, the Aussies took as a point of pride, because the great General Rommel, and German Army as a whole, was halted for the first time by a group of rats from down under.
Part of the Pacific War in WW2, the Kokoda trial is infamous for its gruelling conditions. As Papua New Guinea was Australian territory at the time, this was the first instance when the Aussies were under attack themselves. With the Imperialist Japanese playing villains just as easily as their Nazi allies, the story of the Chocos, who were the Australian “Chocolate Soldier” conscripts doomed to ‘melt under the pressure’, is like a modern day retelling of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae. Jungle warfare, naval battles and a great underdog story are all elements that would make up an awesome shooter. As Battlefield 1 showed, when the horrific aspects of war are embraced, a shooter gains a more serious aura around it. With the horror of Kokoda in a game, it would have a similar effect.
While the Vietnam War is well documented in pop culture, there aren’t as many huge game releases that have captured the social significance of the war like films or music have. The Vietnam War holds a special place in Australia’s cultural memory, with music like Redgum’s “I Was Only 19” and Cold Chisel’s “Khe Sahn” becoming immortalised in pubs across the nation. The Australian’s success at stabilising the Phước Tuy Province in Nui Dat is a story of humanitarian aid that is rarely told when discussing the tragedy of Vietnam. With Battlefield Vietnam nailing the tone and Call of Duty: Black Ops getting the setting right, all the elements are there, they just need a game to bring them together. As Battlefield 1 had a more serious tone and Call of Duty: WW2 took a more cinematic approach, the gaming world is ready for the equivalent of Apocalypse Now, Platoon and the Deer Hunter.
Battlefield 1’s Turning Tides DLC did a great job at including Australia’s most renown military endeavour, but it was missing one crucial element; the Anzac legend. One of the most important chapters in Australia’s history, the Anzac legend born in Gallipoli has defined much of what Australia is. Battlefield 1 might’ve gotten the location right, but it didn’t capture the mateship, sardonic sense of humour and spirit of the Australian soldiers.
These values have grown to embed themselves within Australian culture, and while they are heavily romanticised, it is the role of creative art, like games, in society to recreate these romantic tales of courage. Stories like Simpson and his Donkey, the birth of the Anzac biscuit and Banjo Patterson’s poetic words “For English, Scotch, and Irish-bred, they’re all Australians now!” are universally heartwarming, detailing hope in hopelessness. As this year marks the centenary of the Great War’s end, it’s time for gaming to take on the Anzac legend.