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Pixel Lions – the image of the soldier in First World War computer games

This article examines the imagery and portrayal of First World War soldiers within modern computer games. The role of a soldier is a staple of computer games and the Second World War remains the most referenced and depicted conflict within the medium.

Second World War games are highly influenced by cinematic portrayals of the conflict. The depiction of First World War soldiers, however, is a more recent and complicated development. Films focused on the First World War are not as populous as those depicting the Second and they also exist within different narrative conventions.

By examining games such as Valiant Hearts: The Great War, Trenches 2, Verdun 19141918 and Trench Warfare, this article argues that soldiers fall into two major groups largely defined by trends in narrative portrayal: the Individuals and the Mass. However, because of the more morally complicated nature of the First World War and the audience’s expectations regarding the deadly nature of the conflict, figures within these groups come to represent competing visions of heroism and survival whilst in war time.

By also considering the implications of these portrayals along national lines, this article highlights the complicated nature of media portrayals of the war and how computer games are evolving in a new direction to cope with it.

Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
Volume 35, 2015 – Issue 4: The Great War and the Moving Image

This piece was chosen as part of the American Historical Association’s 2018 Article Collection

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