5 real-life historical people we'd like to play as in video games

Published: July 16 2021

Last updated: September 6 2022

5 real-life historical people we'd like to play as in video games
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Who in history would be the best to play as in Valorant? Are there any real-life League of Legends characters? Which historical figures deserve to kick virtual ass for their real-life ass-kicking? Catt and Tabbie dive into who they think would ace the gaming world.

Catt: I don’t know about you, but I definitely remember my mother telling me to get off the computer and do my history homework and me explaining that I was in the middle of a dungeon with my friends and that it was really important. And now here we are writing this. So, uh, I guess we were both right.

Tabbie: Right! Who said the world of video games couldn't be educational?

Catt: Exactly. Want to jump in with our first contender?

Simo Häyhä—The original White Walker

Role: Sniper

Badass rating: The White Death

Game: Valorant

Tabbie: In 1939, while everyone was preoccupied with World War II, the Soviet Union decided now would be a great time to invade Finland. Finland didn’t have anywhere near the numbers of the Soviet Union, nor did it have the artillery; surely it would be like taking candy from a baby? But the Soviets hadn’t accounted for Finland’s secret weapon: Simo Häyhä AKA The White Death. Häyhä and just 31 other Finish troops would hold off invading forces of 4000 Soviets, with legend attributing 505 casualties to Häyhä alone.

To the Finns, Simo Häyhä was their friendly neighborhood ‘Magic Shooter’, a real-life superhero. Though his skills were clearly superhuman, they didn’t come from the bite of a radioactive sniper but rather through a lot of hard work. He grew up close to a shooting range and would enter contests there. Not just enter them, but whoop major ass at them, winning trophy after trophy. Just one of his many achievements was hitting a target 16 times in a minute from 500ft away. That’s insane!

Too many video game snipers—and also real snipers—his techniques were peculiar. Häyhä wouldn’t lie down; he preferred to sit, as he felt that helped his aim. Perhaps he thought it couldn’t hurt his concealment that much, as he was only 5’3! Don’t think for a second proper hiding wasn’t important to Häyhä; on the contrary, it was half of his technique. He would go as far as shoveling snow against the barrel and even into his mouth to conceal the smoke and steam!

Another controversial element of Häyhä’s technique was that he aimed for the center of his enemies’ bodies. If you’re taking notes, this is a super-effective technique for fending off invading Soviet troops, but not for scoring very highly in Valorant. Häyhä would also not use a scope, just a Mosin-Nagant M91 rifle, and iron sights. Yep, 500+ kills, one winter, no scope. Hardcore. This is primarily because scopes would reflect the light and make him more visible to enemy snipers, but secondarily because it’s a huge flex.

Eventually, the Soviets grew tired of sending their troops into The White Death’s peripheral vision of death and would retaliate. They tried blindly firing arsenal in his general direction, but that didn’t work. They sent entire fleets of snipers to no avail. Eventually, it would be a lowly Soviet sniper with an exploding round that would knock Simo Häyhä out of the battle. Severely wounded, but the hero he was, Häyhä would fight for his life and win. He wouldn’t return to the battle—he awoke the day after it came to an end—but he lived a long life, finally passing away in 2002 at the incredible age of 96. Just another awesome achievement from this real-life superhero!

Mary Seacole—Saving lives on the front lines

Role: Healer

Badass rating: Mother of Badass

Game: League of Legends

Tabbie: In the heat of the fight, you need a strong and reliable healer on your team and who better than the most badass medic around: Mary Seacole. Born in Jamaica, Seacole began learning medicine from her mother at a young age. When her passion became obvious, she traveled the world, increasing her medical knowledge as she went. Which turned out to be lucky for a lot of people as she grew to be a prospering businesswoman and caring nurse. She would rely on the wealth of her richer patients to subsidize the poorer and would never turn down someone in need. 

Then, in 1953, the Crimean War broke out.

Disease would claim the lives of 3.5x more people than the direct injuries of the war. To give you an idea of the scale, that’s something like 25,000 British, 100,000 French, and maybe up to a million Russian. And that’s if we only count the soldiers. Seacole traveled from her established and successful business in Panama to volunteer for the war effort in London. Denied by both the army and Florence Nightingale’s nurses, Secole sought the help of Thomas Day, a relative of her late husband, to fund her voyage.

They would be in business soon after, collecting supplies needed to cobble together a hotel in Crimea. There, she tended to wounded and sick soldiers and became known as a mother figure to those fighting the war. She would bring refreshments, activities to take their mind off things, and medical supplies to the very heart of the battle.

We all need this sort of devotion to healing, the caring mother figure with badass balls of steel, ready to go into a shootout armed with badges and a cup of tea.

Theagenes of Thasos—A mighty fighter, kicking ass from beyond the grave. 

Technically, this guy already appears in a video game—Assassin’s Creed Odyssey—but only as a statue. Hear me out, it’ll make sense later.

Badass Rating: Gold-medal badass

Role: Fighter/Slayer

Game: League of Legends

Catt: With the 2021 Olympics on the horizon, we can only hope to see an Olympian as badass as our boy Theagenes (pronounced Thay-YEN-ees). 

While he is mainly known as a boxer, he also competed in long-distance running and pankration, which is basically an ancient version of MMA whose name literally translates to “ALL THE POWER.” And he was amazing at all of them, emerging victorious at every one of the Panhellenic games. All told, Theagenes won around 1400 prizes during his career. For comparison, the most successful boxer of the 20th Century had 229 wins. Just let that sink in for a second.

Given his superhuman fighting skills, it’s no real surprise that legends about him spread. 

The miraculous birth

Theagenes’ was the son of a priest at the temple of Herakles (who you might know better by his Roman name: Hercules) OR WAS HE? Rumor has it that Herakles himself may have taken the priest's form and fathered the child. 

The boy wonder

By the age of 9, Theagenes was already stronger than most men. The legend has it that the boy saw a heavy bronze statue of a god in the marketplace, thought, “I’ll have that,” and just picked it up and carried it home. The townsfolk, obviously furious, made him carry it right back again. The kid carried this huge chunk of metal both ways. I get tired carrying groceries home from the supermarket.  

Stone cold revenge 

After Theagenes’ death, the people of Thasos raised a statue to their champion, which a jealous rival attacked one night in a fit of rage. Blowing off steam might have made him feel better if the statue hadn’t fallen over and killed him. The rival’s family accused the statue of murder (as you do), and it was sentenced to exile, which in this case meant yeeting it into the sea. Problem solved? No. Instead, the land was ravaged by drought until they fished the statue back out and, presumably, apologized.  

Obviously, Theagenes would be melee-focused. In terms of abilities, something along the lines of Hecarim’s Warpath could make sense or maybe something like Vi’s Denting Blows. I’d definitely give him an on-death passive that transforms him into a statue for a few seconds before dealing AoE damage to anyone foolish enough to be nearby. 

Roy Perez Benavidez

Role: The ultimate support

Badass rating: Unstoppable superhuman

Game: Call of Duty: Warzone

Tabbie: After joining the army at 19, Roy Perez Benavidez would quickly rise up the ranks, having truly found his calling. Things would seemingly come to a halt when, in 1965, Benavidez stepped on a landmine in Vietnam while carrying out a classified mission. 

His doctors told him he would never walk again. So he accepted his fate and went on to enjoy his retirement. Just kidding. He would beg the army not to discharge him and would work tirelessly—and initially against his doctors’ will—to regain movement in his legs. His hard work paid off and, in July 1966, he got up and walked out of the hospital.

Despite being promised only a desk job, Benavidez was determined to return to the battle.  He worked hard to eventually join the green berets and by 1968, he was back in Vietnam. While off duty and in church, Roy Benavidez would be transfixed by the radio chatter. His colleagues and closest friends were being slaughtered on the front lines. Finally, after bullet-ridden helicopters returned from an unsuccessful extraction, Benavidez hopped on and flew into the battle armed only with a Bowie knife and medical supplies.

Benavidez would sprint to the extraction point, taking heavy enemy fire and getting shot in the leg. He mistook this for a thorn. 

Catt: Sorry, time-out. He literally went into the battle with a melee knife and a health pack, got shot, and was like “‘tis but a scratch”? 

Tabbie: Yep, badass. Wounded, he dragged around ten wounded men into a defensible position and signaled for extraction. They would all get into the helicopter while Benavidez suppressed fire. He would take another shot, this time to the thigh. Undeterred, he set out to find the team’s leader. Benavidez found him dead and would begin to drag his body to the extraction point but would take a third bullet, this time to the stomach, and was also struck by shrapnel from a grenade. Which didn’t kill him, just knocked him out because, of course, it did.

Naturally, Roy Benavidez is not the type to stay down. After coming to, he realized tragedy had struck. The helicopter had crashed, the pilot dead. 7 men survived. Benavidez dispensed painkillers and called him air support, taking yet another bullet wound to the leg. Another helicopter arrived for extraction, and he began loading in his injured colleagues. As he did so, he was wounded by an enemy soldier. Benavidez pulled out his bowie knife and fought back, killing him.

Despite blood-obscured vision, he insisted on collecting the classified information from fallen troops and only then allowed others to pull him into the chopper. 

With 37 bullet and shrapnel wounds and physically holding in his intestines, the doctors began to put Benavidez in a body bag. Using the last of his energy, Benavidez spat in the doctor’s face to signal he was still alive.

After intensive surgery, Benavidez would survive to receive the medal of honor from President Ronald Regan, who described Roy’s six hours in hell as "if the story of his heroism were a movie script, you would not believe it." 

Lyudmila Pavlichenko—The sniper who sniped snipers

Role: Sniper

Badass rating: Lady Death

Game: Valorant

Catt: Well, this is awkward. I have another Valorant sniper for the list. Actually, there are a lot of similarities to Simo Häyhä but—umm—on the opposite side of the war. 

It’s 1941, and you’re a young woman in Ukraine training to be a nurse. Adolf Hitler orders the Nazi Wehrmacht to invade the Soviet Union. What do you do?

You probably answered, “become a military nurse.” Or at least, you did if you’re the recruitment officer who met Lyudmila Pavlichenko on that fateful day. Pavlichenko had other ideas, though: she could serve her country better as a sniper. 

Lyudmila was naturally athletic as a child, and when she heard a boy boasting about his shooting skills, she knew she could do it too. She quickly fell in love with the sport, earning her sharpshooter badge and marksman certificate before joining a sniper school. 

She quickly proved herself to the military and joined the Red Army’s 25th Rifle Division, where they armed her with... a single hand grenade. Yep. While the USSR could churn out munitions in extraordinary amounts, the Germans had successfully disrupted Soviet manufacturing several times, leading to massive shortages in weapons and gear. Pavlichenko had to wait until a comrade was too injured to fight before getting a gun, but once she got one, oh boy, did she use it.

Lyudmila killed 309 soldiers—36 of whom were other snipers—in just a few months. She would travel at night or in the early morning, find her vantage point, then lie—motionless—for 15 hours or more waiting to strike. It was clearly effective. The Germans hated and feared her, once announcing over loudspeakers, ‘If we catch you, we will tear you into 309 pieces and scatter them to the winds!’ 

After her battlefield service ended, she went to the UK, the USA, and Canada to try and gain support for a second front. While in the States, she proved herself almost as deadly with words as she was with a rifle. After being constantly peppered with questions about whether she wore makeup on the battlefield and if her uniform was attractive or not, she’d had enough. At a speech in Chicago, she said, "I am 25-years-old, and I have killed 309 fascist occupants by now. Don’t you think, gentlemen, that you have been hiding behind my back for too long?” Ouch! 

Dear Riot, please add Lyudmila Pavlichenko to Valorant. Signed, everyone.

Seriously, this would be so fun. In terms of abilities, a ‘nade, naturally. Maybe being able to become invisible when still. Not sure about an ult; it would have to be something really cool.

Catt: And that’s it. What a list, huh?

Tabbie: It’s pretty awesome. We’re here advocating for these people to be in games so we can see them represented fictionally or even play as them—but they actually existed. They were real people who were more amazing than any fictional gaming character!

What did you think of our selections? Join the conversation on Twitter. Tell us which one you’d like to play as most, what their abilities should be, or who we missed off the list.


Catt / CopyCatt
UX Copywriter.

Human Ranger/Bard. Horror enthusiast. Story-driven. I like games where you can harvest plants.