Electronic Arts says it will change the name of an epic-tier skin for Battlefield 2042 specialist Pyotr "Boris" Gukovsky because it "unintentionally references a real world issue, and isn't reflective of our team's values." EA didn't say which skin is being renamed in the announcement, but confirmed in a later reply tweet that it will be the "Little Green Man" skin.
"Little green men" is a term used to describe space aliens, but also irregular Russian forces who spearheaded the annexation of Crimea in 2014, an action that touched off the conflict between Russia and Ukraine that continues to this day. Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, initially denied that the troops were Russian, saying instead that they were members of local militia groups who had taken up arms against the Ukrainian army following the ouster of Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russia president of Ukraine, who was removed from his post and fled the country following the Euromaidan protests. Putin later acknowledged that Russian forces were in fact involved in the conflict.
We sincerely appreciate you bringing this to our attention. The use of the name was unintentional, and you've helped us to make a positive change in the game. Thank you 💛https://t.co/xfFrcdTxW7November 12, 2021
It's not the most egregious example of a poor naming choice in a Battlefield game: A Battlefield 5 super-Nazi was named Wilhelm Franke until it came to light that Wilhelm Franke was the name of a real WW2 antifascist in Germany.
I'm not sure how this choice could be called "unintentional," though. The developers may not have considered the name a big deal—possibly because news about the conflict is not heavily reported everywhere, although in 2020 the UN estimated that it had resulted in over 13,000 casualties—but the name itself is way too on-point to be a coincidence.
The change highlights the perils of using modern conflicts as entertainment fodder, especially in a very connected world in which players from nations in conflict may very easily find themselves facing each other online. References to recent and live conflicts in particular have to be judged with a global perspective—and if developers fail to do that, they can be sure that their fans will.
The skin name will be changed in a future update, and EA has declined to comment on the matter further. Battlefield 2042 is available now to anyone who pre-purchases the Gold or Ultimate versions of the game, plus subscribers to EA Play Pro. For everyone else, it goes live on November 19. Here's our review-in-progress.