by Jed Pressgrove
1. The Historical-Accuracy Claim
Following the lead of Kingdom Come: Deliverance director Daniel Vávra, critics and gamers are throwing around terms like “historically accurate” and “medieval life simulator.” Such absurd descriptions don’t reflect the truth but rather play into a marketing scheme, and that historians were consulted for the game is irrelevant (Hollywood filmmakers, notorious for historical inaccuracies, have consulted historians for decades). You could reject the historical-accuracy claim with a number of different points, but all you have to do is listen to the characters speak English in Kingdom Come, which takes place in 15th-century Bohemia, and realize you’re being pandered to on a basic level. Kingdom Come does achieve a degree of realism or verisimilitude, especially if you compare it to fantasy games, but that’s not historical accuracy.
2. The Tokenism vs. Erasure Debate
Contrary to popular belief, the prerelease debate about the lack of black people in Kingdom Come: Deliverance didn’t have two sides. It only had one side: stupidity. This discussion, if you could call it that, featured one argument that seemed to advocate for token black characters in the game for the sake of “historical accuracy,” a term that, as shown above, is dubious at best in this context. In this argument, I saw little concern for how black characters might be portrayed in such a game; the prevailing upshot was simply that black characters needed to be in a game that nobody had played yet. Another argument, started by Vávra, implied that no black people ever set foot in medieval Bohemia. This hypothesis is an exaggeration, and it was enough to inspire others to claim, idiotically, that no black people were in medieval Europe at all. Not only does this debate continue to distract people from the game itself, but it shows that many critics and gamers, no matter their worldview, enjoy forming reactions to games before playing them based on some half-assed political orientation — a sign of both intellectual dishonesty and deep-seated insecurity.
3. The Failure to Grasp the Connection Between Technical Expression and Style
When playing Kingdom Come on the PS4, I had not seen a game so technically inept since last year’s Troll and I, and I played dozens of new games between the releases of Troll and I and Kingdom Come. My review of Kingdom Come was met with some negative feedback that suggested it was unfair to focus on the game’s technical flaws, but how can a game be stylistically realistic if it does not technically function in a way to reinforce a sense of realism? The positive reviews of the console versions of Kingdom Come have not answered this question.
4. Game Critics Refusing to Be Game Critics
Both Waypoint and Giant Bomb declined to criticize Kingdom Come: Deliverance upon its release. To simplify, members of both publications said they didn’t want to cover the game because of Vávra’s connection to Gamergate. Taking this excuse to its logical conclusion, if critics work on the basis of whether they find creators morally objectionable, a majority of criticism would cease to exist. I find it incredibly hard to believe that no other game covered by Waypoint or Giant Bomb has ever had a developer who sympathized with some aspect of Gamergate. So I challenge Waypoint and Giant Bomb, right now, to go down the list of every game they’ve covered and prove that none of them involve artists who have said, supported, or done despicable things. If they accept this challenge, I believe both publications will find that reviewing games, not declining to review games because you find certain people deplorable, is the point of game criticism.