|Guest column: Modern War-Fun?|
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 14:00
"War… war never changes," uttered Ron Perlman, narrating one of the most iconic gaming lines of all time. Originally used in Fallout (1997), it has remained a part of the Fallout series all the way up to its most recent iteration.
Was he right? It doesn’t seem so. While brutality and a struggle to survive are often depicted in gaming – they are rarely accurate. If you believe that Call of Duty is a depiction of a never-changing war – you are in for a surprise should you ever enlist! Unfortunately, helicopter dodging and regenerating health isn’t an everyday experience on the job for modern servicemen and -women.
This is what set off Gamespot editor Tom McShea at a recent showing of the upcoming ‘Medal of Honor: Warfighter’. Afterwards, he wrote: “Phrases such as "respect for the soldiers" and "extreme realism" hung in the air like hopeful promises… Sadly, once I watched players compete in a multiplayer match, I could see that those ideas were little more than marketing speak.”
Regenerating health is a mechanic that has become the industry standard in gaming. Those of us who have been playing games since back in the 90’s know just how different an experience gaming is without it. Starting at 100 health points, that sum is brought down with every gunshot wound sustained, until it leads to eventual death, which requires the player to restart the level or to load a saved game.
This, argued McShea, is an exclusionary factor to any claim of realism. “Getting shot hardly matters in these games,” he wrote. “Movement isn't hindered in the slightest, even though a bullet is lodged in your leg. Aiming is just as steady, even though your arm is shredded by shrapnel. The only hint that you've been wounded is a slightly obscured view, but that hardly communicates the horrible pain and life-threatening conditions.”
In reality, modern armed conflicts are primarily concerned with the conservation of soldiers’ lives. Meaning that, if hiding makes you as fit as a fiddle, you lose that core element of real conflict. And losing core elements doesn’t seem to indicate ‘realism’ or ‘authenticity’.
“Regenerating health ensures you won't need to carefully consider every move you make. Instead, you can run into battle, absorb a few rounds, and then duck behind cover like nothing happened,” McShea explained. “Developers continually talk about how much respect they have for real-life soldiers, but you'd be hard-pressed to find evidence of that claim in their games.”
Do gamers want what is described by one Reddit user as “some big Michael Bay based game”? Or do they want crushing realism? Sales would indicate that gamers prefer the more ‘entertainment’ driven offerings. Call of Duty is a highly successful series, while its realistic counterparts, such as Red October 2: Heroes of Stalingrad, or ArmA II, enjoy much less success.
Communities such as www.tacticalgamer.com seek realism and simulation as much as possible, even offering in-game training courses on real-world military tactics.
A modification for ArmA II: ‘Project Reality’ features the addition of specialised wind reading tools, which requires snipers to adapt their aiming for distance trajectory, wind interference and the Coriolis effect - a far cry from the ‘aim at head and click’ required from more mainstream shooters. If you’re curious, a multiplayer-only version of ArmA II is available for free download here.
Which would you prefer? A bullet hitting your shoulder – meaning you’ll slowly bleed out without medical attention – and poor aim as a result of the injury? Or an action packed, clip-emptying riot with hundreds of enemies being killed by you alone?
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