'Mordhau' and the Fantasy of an All-White Middle Ages

The past few years have been host to a number of discussions regarding supposed “historical accuracy” in games that portray Europe as a wholly white and nearly-entirely-male landscape. The fact that Mordhau, a game that draws heavily from the same aesthetics as neofascist white supremacist movements draw inspiration from, is grappling with bigotry and hate movements within their gaming community, comes across as disappointing, but unfortunately not surprising.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/8xzpeg/mordhau-and-the-fantasy-of-an-all-white-middle-ages
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It’s easy to use a defense of “historical accuracy” to wallpaper over deliberate decisions made by development teams that allow for the possibility of appropriation by racial hate movements and ideologies.

I was pretty proud of this tweet I made in reaction to the ‘hIsToRiCaL aCcUrAcY’ crowd:

Unfortunately, the history of many actual medieval locations is far less clean-cut than fantasies of pure white racial hegemony may suggest, as the borders of medieval Europe were host to a great number of travelers, conflicts, and cultural exchanges that affected the racial makeup of Middle Ages European societies, such as Umayyad rule in Spain in the mid-700s and flourishing trade with African societies along the Mediterranean coastline.

Video Games may be fucked around this, but I have noticed a few nice examples of diversity in medieval film and television. One recent example is the film, ‘The Outlaw King’ which is about Robert the Bruce in the 1300s.

There’s a small scene where Robert is on the docks in Scotland, turning over taxes to the king of England, and there’s a sweeping over the shoulder shot showing all the different peoples and cultures stopping to trade.

Also, there seems to be this strange idea that medieval Europe was completely divorced from the Middle East??? If you have white dudes in Crusades-Era armor, then why is it so flabbergasting to not expect African or Arabic peoples amongst the knights? You have Danes, which are a sea away in ‘Viking’ like armor in your game, which is divorced from the time period by 300-500 years… They were as seperate from ‘Christendom’ as the Islamic peoples were. What’s the big deal?

To me, there is no fucking argument for ‘historical accuracy’ seeing as how it’s obviously a arena fighter with emphasis of a knight fantasy, rather than any kind of historical basis. Just add more diverse options, it’s not that hard. This has the same tone of a game like For Honor, with the same nonsense excuse to put all these knight fights in a big stupid arena. Embrace that, or you’re embracing the wrong things.

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Yeah, had heard good things about the gameplay but I had avoided it for this reason. I am kinda surprised the discoursed passed this by.

Britian, a former colony of the Roman empire, a stone’s throw from Moorish Spain, might have been connected by the outside world.

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There’s evidence of black legionaries on Britannia during the Roman empire, a thousand years before Mordhau’s time period.

This whole ‘historical accuracy’ debate is nonsense.

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The ‘realism’ in For Honor basically starts and stops with the period accurate attacks, like using the Warden’s longsword as a club instead of stabbing, but I still appreciate that a game set in a “medieval period” allows all characters to be any color

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I think this podcast is pretty popular around here (I learned about it from waypoint radio …) but Citations Needed just did an episode on this exact thing, focusing a little bit more on the co-opting of ancient than medieval history, but goes into some of the… history… of that co-opting.

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So, I posted this in a discord server I hang out in, but I thought I’d crosspost it here because it’s related and interesting…

Basically, the group of people you’d think games like Mordhau would attract… the historical European martial arts crowd? Not only do they kind of not mess with these games, they’ve gone out of their way to be inclusive and make European martial arts accessible. Like, Dave Rawlings, head of the London Longsword academy, founded FAR (fighters against racism) and marched in a pride parade. That’s not to say white supremacy isn’t a problem in HEMA, it is, but these losers tend to flock to their own physical spaces or take up digital ones like in mordhau because it’s easier to do because they aren’t welcome in the actual historical fencing community.

When they do form actual irl fencing groups they do dumb shit like actually hurt each other with their weapons in the woods because that’s the mindset these people have.

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This is Kingdom Come shit all over again.

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In my personal experience, it’s incredible how (even though the topic is about “europe”) American this entire “debate” is. I mean, not to downplay the contemporary “european” right-wing (which imo, are quite influenced by the US right btw), but there is a lot of mystification about “europe” (extending into ancient history) flowing around the American dominated internet that just doesn’t really work in europe itself.
Mostly, I think this is because the history of the colonization of the Americas (what became the US at the forefront of it) allows contemporary Americans to ideologically force “europe” into one strange homogeneous blob of “whiteness” (interestingly, at least contemporarily, including slavs) that is then contrasted with rest of the world. It’s basically projecting American historical concepts onto other places. That this doesn’t quite work in “europe” itself, because of the different history and the consequential development of countless diverse cultures and “nations” is obvious.

But then again, I’m just spitballing from my personal experience growing up and living in said place.

Yes and no. The developers of this game and Kingdom Come are both Eastern European, and at least in the case of the latter, specific members of the team are avowed members of GG. Their making of KC:D into the game that it became was a matter of national (“nationalist”?) pride.