In­verse look

As King­dom Come: De­liv­er­ance comes un­der fire for its lack of di­ver­sity, Rick Lane pon­ders the ques­tion of his­tor­i­cal au­then­tic­ity

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Last month I re­viewed King­dom Come: De­liv­er­ance, a me­dieval RPG de­signed to au­then­ti­cally por­tray an area of 15 th cen­tury Bo­hemia. I en­joyed its pic­turesque scenery and in­ter­est­ing sys­tems de­sign, but the game also launched un­der a cloud of con­tro­versy due to the past state­ments and ac­tions of the head of Warhorse Stu­dios, Daniel Vavra.

Vavra is a game in­dus­try vet­eran who also made the 2003 open-world game Mafia, mak­ing him a cel­e­brated fig­ure within the Czech Repub­lic. How­ever, Vavra caused out­rage when, in ref­er­ence to De­liv­er­ance’ s rep­re­sen­ta­tion of eth­nic mi­nori­ties, he stated on Twit­ter that ‘ there were no black peo­ple in me­dieval Bo­hemia. Pe­riod’.

Vavra’s com­ments re­ceived wide­spread con­dem­na­tion, with many peo­ple call­ing him a racist and white sup re mac ist.Vav ra sub­se­quently is­sued a state­ment, in which he ve­he­mently de­nied ac­cu­sa­tions of Nazism. He main­tained, how­ever, that War horse’ s re­search into me­dieval Bo­hemia con­cluded that it was ‘more than doubt­ful’black peo­ple resided in the area at the time.

The sit­u­a­tion raises thorny is­sues about the sep­a­ra­bil­ity of art and artist, au­then­tic­ity, and how we view and por­tray Euro­pean his­tory, which is of­ten far more di­verse than we as­sume. African peo­ple vis­ited Bri­tain as early as the 1 st cen­tury AD as part of the Ro­man le­gions, while south­ern Spain was a Mus­lim caliphate for over 700 years. Trade, mean­while, has brought peo­ple across the Mediter­ranean at least since the days of the an­cient Greeks, while the Silk Roads have spread through Asia and Europe for hun­dreds if not thou­sands of years.

De­liv­er­ance is set in 1403, in a small patch of Czech coun­try­side about 50km away from Prague. The towns and vil­lages it rep­re­sents, such as Rat­tay and Sasau, are real places you can visit to­day. Prague was also a ma­jor trade hub and thor­ough fare to Eastern Europe and Asia, so it would have ex­pe­ri­enced con­sid­er­able cul­tural di­ver­sity, and it’ s pos­si­ble that peo­ple from Africa vis­ited or even resided there in the 15th cen­tury.

De­liv­er­ance, how­ever, doesn’t fea­ture Prague. Its set­ting is largely ru­ral, sit­u­ated some dis­tance away from the main trad­ing hubs, and spe­cific ev­i­dence for black peo­ple in that area in 1403 does ap­pear to be thin on the ground. S as au is the lo­ca­tion of a large me­dieval monastery, whose monks would likely have recorded the visit of any­one from as far away as Africa. The game is also set dur­ing wartime, specif­i­cally when Sigis­mund of Hun­gary was send­ing bands of Cum an( Turk­ish) mer­ce­nar­ies to raid the homes of sup­port­ers of King W enc es la us IV of Bo­hemia – a pre­lude to the later Hus­site Wars. As a re­sult, it’ s un­likely that many peo­ple for­eign to the area would visit un­less ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary.

Hence, War horse’ s as­ser­tion that it’ s‘ doubt­ful’ black peo­ple would have been in that spe­cific area of Bo­hemia at the time isn’t en­tirely un­rea­son­able. Doubt­ful isn’t the same as cer­tain, though, and that’s what we should con­sider when play­ing De­liv­er­ance or, in­deed, any game that claims his­tor­i­cal au­then­tic­ity. Our un­der­stand­ing of the pastis in con­stant flux on ac­count of newly un­cov­ered ev­i­dence, new in­ter­pre­ta­tions of ex­ist­ing ev­i­dence, and the be­liefs and ideas of in­di­vid­ual his­to­ri­ans and a cul­ture as a whole.

De­liv­er­ance presents us with a very de­tailed and highly ortho­dox in­ter­pre­ta­tion of me­dieval life, which wholly ac­cepts many of the con­ven­tional un­der­stand­ings of that par­tic­u­lar era. The game isn’t nec­es­sar­ily wrong to do so but, cru­cially, it also doesn’ t mean we should take the game’ s rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the me­dieval era as in­con­tro­vert­ible fact.

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