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The Military Games

How Will Contemporary War Games Affect Veterans? 288

Posted by Soulskill
from the serious-business dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Recently, video game developers have begun to make games about current conflicts the world over. Many veterans and current military personnel now take an active role in the video game community. Are game companies running the risk of walking into a public relations disaster when making games about current wars? More importantly, how will veterans react to playing games about a conflict in which they have participated? From the article: 'To portray conflict in a way that not only accurately depicts the acts of war, but does so in a manner that takes into account the sacrifices of soldiers within some sort of moral framing is a complicated matter. Now add to this the idea that such depictions are essentially created as entertainment and to make money. It is certainly mind numbing when looked at from a social perspective. ... Now try and apply this dynamic to a more recent conflict such as the Vietnam War or the current conflicts in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Considering that the latter wars are still in progress, the ability for a game developer to accurately gauge the morality of such a conflict is limited at best. To make a game that takes these factors into account while trying to create something that is both entertaining and capable of mass appeal among the gaming community is near impossible.'" We caught a glimpse of this last year with the reactions to Six Days In Fallujah.
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How Will Contemporary War Games Affect Veterans?

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  • I AM a Marine. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Israfels (730298) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @02:00AM (#33134618)
    As a Marine I can tell you that almost all games fail at making real combat games realistic. Just look at the currently popular FPS; Modern Warefare 2. There's camping in absurd places, quick scoping, commando teleporting, spawn killing, bunny hopping, pistol sniping, modded controllers, laggers with laser bullets.

    Here's what you can quote me on; "No developer that can get close to a realistic warfare game without making it as unfun as war actually is."
  • by Vahokif (1292866) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @02:02AM (#33134634)
    The difference is that movies can show that war is hell. Games, by definition, have to make war fun.
  • Re:Bad guys (Score:5, Informative)

    by 0123456 (636235) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @02:14AM (#33134674)

    "And I don't want those two countries, ruled by a dictatorship, to have weapons that will enable them to carry out their threats."

    Presumably you missed the part where Iran was a democracy before America and Britain staged a coup to oust its democratic government in the 50s?

  • Re:I AM a Marine. (Score:2, Informative)

    by NouberNou (1105915) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @02:19AM (#33134704)
    Ever played ArmA2? I have heard from a number of vets that it is as close as you will get with out signing papers. Probably why the USMC and NATO use it (well VBS2) as a simulator. :P
  • by Ambiguous Puzuma (1134017) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @03:31AM (#33135032)

    Games, by definition, have to make war fun.

    Do they?
    By most accounts, Pathologic is a bleak, depressing game--yet some people find it quite compelling anyway, if they can look past its flaws (most notably an incomprehensible translation from Russian to English). From page 2 of the review "Butchering Pathologic" [rockpapershotgun.com]:

    A couple of years ago I had an argument with a friend, one of those differences of opinion that leaves you fuming and coming up with witty ripostes for days afterwards. I was saying that a good game doesn't have to be fun. She was saying that was ridiculous.

    My argument, though I botched my explanation at the time, is that games have incredible untapped potential in the field of negative emotions. Just as the lowest common denominator of any art form appeals to 'positive' emotions, whether it's humour, arousal or excitement, so it is that our young games industry is obsessed with the idea of 'fun'.

    I think this is one of the core reasons that the games industry hasn't had its Casablanca or Citizen Kane- we're still in the era of musicals and slapstick comedy. No games developer's going to try and make its audience feel sad, or lonely, or pathetic, at least not for long stretches. You might get games that dip their toes into that water from time to time, but by and large developers are keen to keep you smiling.

    But that debate is just a big, ugly thorn bush that I've run through too many times already with nothing to show for it. The point is that Pathologic fearlessly wields desperation, brutality, hopelessness, exhaustion, cruelty, even ignorance and pain, and, if you can stomach it, the result is phenomenal.

    Pathologic could not ever be described as fun. Tramping back and forth across town, trying to stem the torrent of deaths while aching to know what's going on /is not fun./ This is not a game. There isn't a word for it really, which is probably why the developers, Ice-pick Lodge, call Pathologic "an exercise in decision making" on their translated English website.

    And this is coming from a rave review that opens with:

    I'm going to explain, right now, why a Russian FPS/RPG called Pathologic is the single best and most important game that you've never played.

    Okay, so it contradicts itself on whether Pathologic is a "game" or "not a game". But that's because there's a largely unexplored gray area in between, where something can play like a game--and be as rewarding as a game--without being "fun".

    (If you want to read the full review of Pathologic, since there doesn't seem to be a good way to navigate between the pages: part 1 [rockpapershotgun.com], part 2 [rockpapershotgun.com], part 3 [rockpapershotgun.com])

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @04:42AM (#33135334)

    For example if you play Fallout 3, you'll discover you can't kill children. You can shoot them, but they just pass out and pop back up (critical NPCs do this too so you can't permanently screw over your game). Now why is that? It doesn't have to be that way by engine limitations, there are mods to change it. It also wasn't that was in the original Fallout. There not only could you kill children, you got a special evil perk for it which lead to more people wanting to kill you.

    Well the reason is that in some countries, it is illegal to have a game where you can kill kids. In the case of the original Fallout, they had to modify it to make all the children go away (they replaced them with invisible sprites). In the case of Fallout 3, they opted for the path of least resistance and just made them unkillable, since some of the kids play a role in the plot and can't be removed.

    Oh and games do sometimes go for some nasty scenes, even big ones. In Call of Duty 4 you play as a solider when a nuclear weapon detonates. You then are crawling around, trying to get out of your downed chopper, as you die.

    However the real reason has nothing to do with "telling the truth" or any of the rest of the things you scream about. It is because people want to play games to have fun. It is the same reason many non-controversial choices are made in games. You'll notice that having food and water in a game at all is somewhat rare, and being forced to eat to survive is near non existent. Why? It's boring to worry about. So they dispense with that. Less realistic, but more fun.

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