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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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  • Bad guys (Score:4, Interesting)

    by odies (1869886) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @01:12AM (#33134368)

    What about the other side which is always portrayed as "bad guys" and are who the player tries to kill and ultimately to win the game you need to beat them? I think the games affect those more.

  • What about movies? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Apotekaren (904220) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @01:22AM (#33134428)

    So why are movies entitled to depict ongoing wars for profit and entertainment without this risk for backlash?
    How many movies haven't already been made about the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, and often getting critical praise for their guts to comment on something so fresh and close to heart?

  • by johnhp (1807490) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @01:27AM (#33134452)
    My father-in-law is a Vietnam vet. Anyway, he's surprisingly into video games for a guy his age, and he likes the Call of Duty style games. As far as I can tell he doesn't find it uncomfortable at all to play war games.

    I did find one aspect of war games that upset him. He watched me playing Call of Duty or some game like that, and I was playing the offline campaign. A bunch of allied AI troops were in my way and I shot them down while laughing. He said that I, or maybe just my actions, were "sick" and said something else about how you shouldn't fire on your own guys, then got up and left the room.
  • by gravos (912628) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @01:32AM (#33134474) Homepage

    I guess the point that TFA is trying to make is that WW2, Vietnam games are tolerated because those are OLD, long-gone wars that don't have much resonance with most people these days. It doesn't get portrayed in the media every day, etc, etc... But games set in unresolved warzones are more tricky because fight hasn't finished and people still have skin in the game.

    That's true and all, but I don't think it means you can't make modern conflicts into games. It just means good judgement is much more important. You can't apply some formula, you have to actually think about how you portray each side and how people are going to react. You have to be careful, but there is still a lot of room for creativity.

  • by johnhp (1807490) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @02:17AM (#33134688)
    I agree that clearly my father-in-law interpreted those pixels as "men", but to me they are just game pieces. I feel no more sympathy for their virtual fate than I feel for that of a chess piece.

    So while I could have or should have considered his perspective on the game, there's nothing "a little off" about my outlook.
  • Re:Moral framing (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TheJokeExplainer (1760894) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @03:57AM (#33135140)
    This is why most FPS games have no civilians, something I miss given the richness of detail gamedevs put into creating maps and environments.

    It's like you have entire cities composed of ghost towns occupied by nothing but soldiers, something that detracts from the experience and atmosphere.

    On a similar note, there are also no children or killable children in most "violent" video games. They were not put in Oblivion and made unkillable in Fallout 3 because of moral objections. You don't see 'em in the GTA series too for the same reasons.
  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @04:24AM (#33135264)

    I've yet to see large crowds walking out of a war movie before it ends, so if they're *capable* of showing that war is hell they certainly aren't doing it.

          A live 120mm mortar round in going off in the middle of the movie theater should do it. Then the (surviving) people will have a fairly good idea about what war really is.

  • by HopefulIntern (1759406) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @05:50AM (#33135546)
    You make excellent points. Sadly I didnt spend my mod points last time round and so they werent renewed today :(

    I would like to reference the Soldier of Fortune series of games. If you remember, they caused much controversy because they tried to depict actual gun wounds and realistic death sequences. (The first one was a bit too early to get decent graphics so it was all pixels anyway, but the second one was pretty good). A shotgun slug to the stomach meant guts would spill out. 7.62mm to the face...well it took a good chunk of face right off. Explosives meant severed limbs.

    People were up in arms about it (no pun intended) because it was too realistic, and all kinds of restrictions were imposed on it. Personally, I thought surely this realism is a good thing. Why sugar-coat what combat is like? It didnt make the game any less fun, but more poignant. I took the time to realise that "thank god this is just a game", and that I dont have to do this in real life.
  • by PyroMosh (287149) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @06:19AM (#33135674) Homepage

    The folks at Penny Arcade toyed with this idea a little bit. Bear with me here, it's a long walk to get to my point.

    October 13 2003, Tycho posts [penny-arcade.com]:

    There was a new Call of Duty demo available this weekend, Dawnville it was called, but now it's gone and you can't get it anymore. I popped back to the desktop for a bit at the LAN party I was at, apparently in the brief window the game was available, and had no trouble getting my hands on it - it's great, like the other one is great, at any rate that's not why I brought it up. The reason Gabe went over to Spokane at all was to show his Grandfather - a man who has never discussed his experience in World War II - the original Call of Duty demo, and talk to him about his reaction to it. I have to admit, there is a part of me that has always wanted authorization from that generation to play these games, set as they are in their private definition of hell.

    Then, on October 15 2003, Tycho posts again [penny-arcade.com]:

    I had a chance to listen to the tape of Gabe's interview with his granddad, and it's already harrowing. They touch on the new Vietnam games very briefly, and without going into much detail he wasn't crazy about the idea. My stepdad was in Vietnam, as I would imagine many dads were - step or otherwise. If he'll talk to me, and I wouldn't blame him if he didn't, but if he did, I'll ask him what it's like to have someone make a toy out of your best friend dying in a jungle.

    Nothing for a while, then on November 24, 2003, Gabe posts [penny-arcade.com]:

    I get lots of mail every week from people asking about the interview I conducted with my Grandpa regarding his experiences in WW II and his thoughts on war related games. I promise it's still coming. My schedule recently heated up a bit but I'm still trying to crack out this article for you guys. I'll be taking a short vacation to Spokane for Thanksgiving and I'm hoping I'll have some time to sneak off and get some of my thoughts typed out.

    Then... nothing. for a very long time. I even emailed them a few months, perhaps a year later to ask what happened. Did I just miss the interview? I wasn't finding it in the site's search. I never got a reply.

    On December 3, 2007, Gabe partially answered my question with this post [penny-arcade.com]:

    I know that I promised you all an interview with my Grandpa a couple years back. I showed him a WWII game and then talked with him about hisexperiences and what he thought of kids playing these kinds of games. I've still got the entire thing on a cassette tape and I'm honestly ashamed that I haven't transcribed it yet. It's my goal for this week.

    To make a long story slightly shorter, here's the interview [penny-arcade.com].

    I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed. It was not a well conducted interview. I don't know what I was expecting. They're not journalists or historians, or authors. They're a comic artist and a humorist (although they are great at what they do, and I often marvel at their writing). The first half of the interview sounds like what you'd expect a 10 year old to ask on an interview for a school assignment. The three or four game related questions at the end just barely scratched the surface.

    What really struck me was Tycho's quote "I'll ask him what it's like to have someone make a toy out of your best friend dying in a jungle". This is one of those situations where the question is a bit more powerful than any one literal answer you can expect to get.

    There seems to me to be a line. Simulation vs Toy. One treats the subject more seriously, and the other uses the subject as a setting for yet another more technically impressive clone of Doo

  • by Spazztastic (814296) <spazztastic@nOSPAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @07:28AM (#33135968)

    I'm sorry but anyone who thinks that a first person shooter, no matter how "realistic" the blood and guts is anything like actually going out and fighting has needs a reality check. They've either never played the game, or they've been playing for too long or they are just plain idiots.

    Same goes for the movies. They might be used as recruiting tools (chiefly for cannon fodder as anyone dumb enough to think they're going to be Maverick from Top Gun clearly is too stupid and naive to be useful as much else).

    You've clearly never watched Band of Brothers or The Pacific. They were placed in a conflict very different than the ones we are involved in now, but they were two of the most moving series I've ever watched and it truly changed the way I look at combat.

    I'd say that The Wire had the same affect in terms of my perspective on crime.

  • by sealfoss (962185) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @09:11AM (#33136724)
    The only people who "enjoy" killing are the ones who've tricked themselves into thinking they enjoy in, in order to carry out whatever disgustingly horrible tasks they're given. Either that, or their sick and derranged. Just because you're a soldier, like I said, it doesn't mean that you are no longer a human being. Saying that the entire US Army enjoys killing people, and alluding to these people they enjoy killing being civilians is indicative of the speaker not wholly understanding the subject their discussing.

The only thing cheaper than hardware is talk.

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