It always bothered me whenever games journalists or gamers lamented the cancellation of Six Days in Fallujah. Or when they discussed how the new Medal of Honor could have said something profound and taught us about the war in Afghanistan – after the controversy of Taliban character models in the multiplayer.
I wondered. Did you see the gameplay footage? Have you played any military shooters lately?
I mean, you do realise that real war isn’t aiming through an EOTech sight and shooting heads with an assault rifle on full auto from ten yards away? Right?
So, just in case it actually needs to be said:
WAR IS NOT LIKE CALL OF DUTY.
(You don’t have to be a military expert, but you can read a book or two.)
It genuinely worries me that Metal Gear Solid 4 (You know, the one with the magical nanomachines and the unmanned bipedal tanks that moo) has more realistic use of weaponry and military accuracy than most of these shooters.
It similarly worries me that the totally off-the-rails, anime-styled, strategy JRPG Valkyria Chronicles explored the responsibility of command and realities of war better than most shooters this side of Brothers In Arms.
You do get games like the cripplingly flawed ArmA 2 (a self-titled ‘military simulator’) that actually features realistically long-range combat, the possibility of one stray bullet ending you, the use of vehicles, calling in airstrikes and actually operating in a squad or platoon.
Naturally, this game gets totally ignored by game journalists. Being that it’s PC exclusive and didn’t review well – that is to be expected.
To be clear – unrealistic war games are fine and a lot of real soldiers enjoy them too. But it is possible to make a realistic, intelligent and respectful war game. One that can inform us non-combatants about the reality of combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.
It doesn’t need to be totally realistic or have the one-hit-kills of ArmA 2 (and of real war), you can fiddle with realism and cut through the boredom.
It doesn’t need to be as big or contrived as ArmA 2, it can be linear and full of set pieces like the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series. The control and ‘do-or-fail’ moments from those games could demonstrate all the excitement, the horror, the restraint and the importance of quick combat decisions.
But right now, the current mainstream shooters aren’t close. They won’t even let you fire assault rifles semi-auto – like, y’know, soldiers do.
The point is if you want to make a meaningful game about a real and current war – you literally have to change the game.