As a European history professor, I am so sad that you led with that awful Atlantic article on AC Unity. Here's an article where the author has obviously not played the game and is drawing information from random quotes in decades old textbooks and book reviews. This is one of those instances where people share an article because it's from The Atlantic, rather than actually judging it on its own merits. I mean good Christ, the article finishes with a quote from The Unbearable Lightness of Being!
Regarding the presentation of history in Company of Heroes 2, the issue is way more complicated than presented in that Polygon article. The root issue at stake here isn't Western depictions of the war on the Eastern Front, but rather how the Second World War is taught in Russia. Most Russian textbooks conveniently forget that the Soviet Union began the war as an aggressor - singing a pact with Nazi Germany, invading Poland, attacking Finland, and fighting an undeclared war against Japan in northern China. Additionally, the worst abuses of Stalin's regime are typically glossed over. This fact is thanks primarily to Putin's regime, which tends to treat Stalin as a misunderstood hero rather than a monstrous paranoid dictator. This isn't to say that the presentation of WWII by Western game companies is accurate and without fault. For instance, how many American WWII games include the internment of Japanese Americans, or the firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo as central plot points? The issue, again, isn't merely misrepresentation of one country by another, but also the misrepresentation of one country by itself.
A friend introduced me to Giantbomb in 2008. I hadn't played games seriously for a number of years, but Giantbomb's style of fun coverage drew me back into a world I thought I had left for good. Ryan Davis was a big part of that change. I had a long commute from 2008 to 2012, and that commute would have been unbearable without "Hey everyone, it's Tuesday..." RIP, Ryan.
Great essay, Alex. I'm really enjoying "The Guns of Navarro" so far. I don't have any answers about this issue myself. I think, however, that as the video game industry becomes more inclusive (e.g. includes people who aren't middle class men from Japan and North America), you'll begin to see a change in this debate. I think part of the reason this debate continues is that people in power or in the media still cannot identify with gamers. But as the industry and the medium becomes more inclusive, or at least accessible, you'll inevitably have a larger number of people in positions of power that are gamers or know them and understand them. Like Sessler argued: books, films, opera used to have this same problem. I think this type of fear is based on a lack of exposure to the particular medium, rather than something inherently wrong with the medium itself.
I bought Skyrim on the PS3 last year. I ignored the complaints about Fallout on PS3, thinking "Surely, they've fixed the problems by now." What a mistake. I nearly bought the XBox version during Black Friday so that I could get the DLC content. The news about Dragonborn on the PS3 comes as a very welcome surprise. At this point, I might as well hold on to my PS3 copy of the game. Even if it comes to the PS3 and works, however, I have learned my lesson. Bethesda + PS3 = Never again.