Sikh soldiers conquering new frontiers in world of online gaming | SIKH VOGUE

Turbaned soldiers are making their presence felt in the virtual world of gaming. The popular game ‘Day of Infamy’, which has over 5,000 people playing at one time, has now featured Sikh soldiers from World War II.

The uniformed men are part of the 1/12th Frontier Force Regiment, Prince of Wales’ Own Sikhs. While officers, riflemen and snipers are shown wearing turbans, the other classes wear Brodie helmets.

Arjan JS Manhas, a 22-year-old student senator at Vancouver Island University and a historian, says he was pleasantly surprised to see the turbaned soldiers. “They are featured on the Mediterranean maps, such as those of Sicily,” says the youngster, whose grandfather fought in the Burma theatre in World War II.


A product of the Colorado-based developers, New World Interactive, the ‘Day of Infamy’ brings to the virtual world events of World War II in the European theatre. In gaming terms, it’s described as a multiplayer tactical first-person shooter video game. The online game modes have two teams: Axis powers and the Allied powers.

Gamers the world over are calling the game launched in 2017 as an attempt to turn the events of World War II into a visual and auditory spectacle. Incidentally, the game may have been inspired by the book of same name on World War II by Newt Gingrich, the former US Speaker, and William R. Forstchen in 2008.

Mandeep Bajwa, a Chandigarh-based military historian, says the 1/12th (Prince of Wales’ Own Sikhs) Frontier Force regiment was deployed in Italy as part of the 8th Indian division in September 1943. The division saw 19 months of continuous action, fighting for many rivers and got the motto “One more river”. They were the key to the success of Allied forces in the Battle of Monte Cassino.

In fact, the battle has a Chandigarh connection as well. Bajwa says late Brig H S Bains of Sector 21, was a medical officer of the regiment, and was awarded the Military Cross for attending to wounded under fire.

Capt Jay Singh Sohal, a London-based historian with a keen interest in the two world wars, says, “I appreciate the realism and immersive experience that developers wish to create within their computer games, doing so with turban-wearing Sikh characters is welcome as it creates more awareness, so long as it accurately portrays the role of such men during the World Wars. There is a need for greater diversity in the gaming industry, and encouraging such stories and characters will ensure our community is better represented.”


Earlier in 2016, a game called Battlefield I, which depicted World War I, had also shown a Sikh medic. Confused by the turban, many gamers posted comments asking why this soldier was wearing so many bandages on his head. The WW-I game also drew attention for showing a large number of soldiers of colour, including Indians, which triggered a debate about the attempts to paint the Western Front as a largely ‘white front’.

Tony McClenaghan, a British military historian who has authored ‘Armies of the Indian Princely States’, says the princely states of Patiala, Kapurthala and Faridkot contributed 50,000 men to the WW-1, of which 18,500 served overseas where 1,634 were killed in action or went missing.

Reddit user LitZippo says the Western Front was probably the most ethnically diverse place on earth at that time. “Muslim prayers were heard in the fields of Flanders and Indian soldiers observed Eid before sitting down to celebrate with their comrades of Buddhist and Muslim faith. Ramadan and the Sikh festival of Vaisakhi were also marked in the trenches.”

Another game Flying Tigers: Shadows over China also has Punjabi names for non-player characters, but they are on the margins.

Arjan JS Manhas says he is excited about Sikh soldiers entering the mainstream world of gaming. “The electronic arts are doing a pretty good job with inclusion.”

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