Something Other Than Soldier

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Thyunda:

LadyRhian:
We need more armored cavalry, aka tank battles.

World of Tanks is literally nothing but tank battles.

On topic - the only one I disagree with there is the battlefield photographer. It's one thing to be causing huge body counts with a machine-gun toting protagonist, but for the point of the game to be travelling about, taking advantage of virtual misery purely to score the perfect snap? I mean, at least in Modern Warfare 3, we were killing lots of invading Russians. The key word being invading. Or we went to go kill Somalian militants. There was some 'greater good' to be achieved, no matter how ridiculous the context.

Now we're some dick with a camera taking pictures of atrocities and using war to further his own ends. What happens when there's no more war, wartime photographer? Will you organise turf wars between gangs to take pictures of? I think you would steal uranium and force countries to fight just so you could earn your Pulitzer Prize.

You absolute bastard.

If you want to see how well something like this could work watch we were soldiers there is a reporter in that film and he pretty much goes in looking for a great story of heroism from the american soldiers but then sees how bad it can get when he gets drawn into the fighting.

If the game had a good story tied to it that approached the subject of war more maturely then it could be really good.

I think most of the ideas in the article could work really well as an MMO where players fight on either side of a conflict so they have to have people running supplies and playing as a medic or flying a transport helicopter.I couldn't see it working in something like battlefield because you aren't tied to anything in the long term so nobody will want to be doing these things for a 30 minute game everyone will just want to play as the soldier.

"If part of the appeal of our medium is to explore worlds and jobs that we don't have access to, why are developers so eager to put us in the same roles over and over again?"

Have you SEEN the amount of people on the internet who'd refuse to play as a pre-zombie apocalypse Frank West, all because war photography doesn't relieve them of their 9-to-5 day job stress?

As appealing as it is to play a first-person disaster area exploration game, the biggest crowd always has the final say. And that affects the decisions of company execs, investors and publishers. Best to just rely on the indies, because it'd take a miracle if we're expecting any of the big boys to pull it off.

A little old, but still appropriate:

http://youtu.be/A5tRNs2X5Q4

More Fun To Compute:
In Mount & Blade Napoleonic you can play as a musician.

I was go for those bastards first. :P
Then the flag bearers, then the officers.

It's ironic that so many of these gunporn, military FPSs try to tell stories exposing the horrors of war, while making the player an active participant in the brutality. As soon as you consider dropping shooting as a gameplay mechanic it becomes easy to imagine any number of more interesting alternatives that are also better suited to telling the stories we want to tell.

Naively, it would seem to come down to the relationship between firearms and penises. Shooting things is satisfying. It sells. It will take a brave publisher and a sympathetic media to start better exploring alternatives.

I don't know what you're talking about, the medic off of Team Fortress two is very accurate. You know, point the magic cannon at the injured people and they get all better. I've seen doctors on TV do it all the time.

Joking aside, a medical rescue helicopter game would be pretty boring.

"Ramirez, go pick up fifty-three injured soldiers while dodging surface to air missiles and don't forget to keep the craft steady, otherwise the injured you already picked up might die of internal injuries..."

Yeah, no.

I REALLY like that combat photographer idea. The challenge would be in keeping it tasteful. It would be like Dead Rising but if the subjects are relatable soldiers the idea can quickly become cruel and vulgar as you scramble to get the best "money shots" of wounded, dying or dead men. The more realistic the setting, the more you're going to feel like a carrion feeding paparazzi. It would probably be easier to get away with in a more light hearted carnage setting like Team Fortress 2.

WouldYouKindly:

Thyunda:

Now we're some dick with a camera taking pictures of atrocities and using war to further his own ends. What happens when there's no more war, wartime photographer? Will you organise turf wars between gangs to take pictures of? I think you would steal uranium and force countries to fight just so you could earn your Pulitzer Prize.

You absolute bastard.

Informing the populace is not a noble enough pursuit for you? If we didn't have reporters over there, we'd only hear from the government how things are going and they don't have much of an issue lying to us. Granted, with how modern mainstream media trends towards sensationalism and ratings rather than the truth, I wouldn't mind such a game.

It was a joke. I as comparing it to lining up a group of enemies in Call of Duty to take them out with one grenade for bonus points. Out here in the real world, a photographer can be all the difference between a terrorist faction and a revolutionary front. In a game, at the end of the day, you're still aiming with the right stick and shooting with the right trigger. Hooray, your pictures have saved a whole race from genocide by stirring the UN into action. But then...who would we be photographing the atrocities of? Vague Middle-Eastern regimes?

Even though we're not killing anybody per se, we're still going to be stereotyping and villifying arbitrary peoples in exactly the same way our games are now. There would actually be no difference in theme. The enemy would be even MORE overblown because it's supposed to be a spectacle. That picture of the fella with the gun to his head, linked to me in another post, might have shaken people in this world, but in the virtual world? We've had guns pointed at our own heads and it hasn't bothered us in the slightest.

People lack empathy for virtual NPCs as it is.

I'm not against the idea. I'm just stating why it wouldn't quite work out.

Nicolaus99:
I REALLY like that combat photographer idea. The challenge would be in keeping it tasteful. It would be like Dead Rising but if the subjects are relatable soldiers the idea can quickly become cruel and vulgar as you scramble to get the best "money shots" of wounded, dying or dead men. The more realistic the setting, the more you're going to feel like a carrion feeding paparazzi. It would probably be easier to get away with in a more light hearted carnage setting like Team Fortress 2.

My point exactly!

Thyunda:
Now we're some dick with a camera taking pictures of atrocities and using war to further his own ends. What happens when there's no more war, wartime photographer? Will you organise turf wars between gangs to take pictures of? I think you would steal uranium and force countries to fight just so you could earn your Pulitzer Prize.

As others have said, the photojournalism you're talking about has a strong current of noble intentions, even though the dominant practice is to observe and document, not interact. And that has costs. War-time, crime, and similar conflict-oriented photographers are extremely apt to suffering significant types of PTSD. Kevin Carter, best known for snapping this photograph, eventually committed suicide. By his own admission, Carter was "haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain ... of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners...."

"If part of the appeal of our medium is to explore worlds and jobs that we don't have access to, why are developers so eager to put us in the same roles over and over again?"

You've missed the point of games entirely, haven't you.
It's not about "exploring worlds and jobs" in a concrete way, it is very abstract in the same way that shooting a gun in a game is an entirely different thing than shooting one in real life.

Why you would base an entire article on the same logic that brought us glorious statements such as "violence in games informs real life violence" is beyond me.
You should know better.

The setting is just a mean to the end which is the gameplay and most jobs you just described would make for terribly boring gameplay.

This brings us back to why soldiers are so popular in games.
The answer would be because shooty shooty bad guys is popular with kids today so it sells whereas I have my doubts about your medically correct field medic simulator being able to do the same.

It is also cute how you describe the tantalizing decisions of a medic about who does and who doesn't get to live as if that has anything to do with the reality of games.
It has nothing, nothing to do with the reality in games.
It is an adorable romantization. Like believing in santa claus.

Honestly, this article made me wonder if you even touched a single game in your entire life at all.

I have to say I like the idea of playing the war photographer/journalist too. Especially if whoever made the game went with the idea that what your character was doing would have an effect on the overall story like how good your shots were and what you chose to report would have an effect on the overall war.

One could even add the whole moral choice options to the character: either making you a "Truth First" journalist who reports everything he/she sees, "Name In The Byline" who is only out for the big scoops that will make you famous/rich or a "Propagandist" who only makes reports that make your side look good even going so far as to cover things up or place blame on the other side.

Tying these together in an example: A unit you are stationed with has just destroyed an "enemy outpost" that was actually a civilian center. While snapping your photos the CO comes up to you and tries to convince you that there is no need for this to get out. It was an accident; bad intel caused this. You are then given a choice: report this as is for the world to judge (but obviously not say this out loud), report it but only to big name news companies that will give you top dollar for the story, don't report it at all or suggest to the CO that this could be spun in everyone's favor by setting up the photos to make it appear the enemy did this. Whatever you decide would have an effect on the war effort and your personal reputation.

Siberian Relic:

Thyunda:
Now we're some dick with a camera taking pictures of atrocities and using war to further his own ends. What happens when there's no more war, wartime photographer? Will you organise turf wars between gangs to take pictures of? I think you would steal uranium and force countries to fight just so you could earn your Pulitzer Prize.

As others have said, the photojournalism you're talking about has a strong current of noble intentions, even though the dominant practice is to observe and document, not interact. And that has costs. War-time, crime, and similar conflict-oriented photographers are extremely apt to suffering significant types of PTSD. Kevin Carter, best known for snapping this photograph, eventually committed suicide. By his own admission, Carter was "haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain ... of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners...."

Right. But in a game, there are no noble intentions. You're not saving the world you're earning points based on the level of tragedy in your shot.

Thyunda:

Siberian Relic:

Thyunda:
Now we're some dick with a camera taking pictures of atrocities and using war to further his own ends. What happens when there's no more war, wartime photographer? Will you organise turf wars between gangs to take pictures of? I think you would steal uranium and force countries to fight just so you could earn your Pulitzer Prize.

As others have said, the photojournalism you're talking about has a strong current of noble intentions, even though the dominant practice is to observe and document, not interact. And that has costs. War-time, crime, and similar conflict-oriented photographers are extremely apt to suffering significant types of PTSD. Kevin Carter, best known for snapping this photograph, eventually committed suicide. By his own admission, Carter was "haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain ... of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners...."

Right. But in a game, there are no noble intentions. You're not saving the world you're earning points based on the level of tragedy in your shot.

That would depend on the criteria of the game design. In the wrong hands, yes, it would probably focus on how tragic the shot is. But it could be handled deftly and creatively, dressed up as objectives and not necessarily placed within the confines of a battle or shootout. It could be just as much about getting the shots as it is about getting the tragic ones. The leader of a particular country's capital is suspected of executing opposing party members; you're on assignment nearby already, so you hop over and try to snap some shots. Or it could place you in the shoes of an actual photojournalist who made a historical difference in one scenario or another.

I understand how the overall mechanic might not work too well for a game, but I don't think it would have to be as one-sided as you might think.

Honestly, most of those ideas really don't sound very fun.

Games are bound by gameplay as well as their setting and story. It may be possible to create compelling photography gameplay or even triage gameplay, but it's not going to be an easy task. Past decades saw a lot of experimentation in gameplay types the way that Steve Watts describe, and the lesson that was learned from that is that it really takes a lot of failed attempts to create new gameplay types.

Support roles are very often represented in strategy games. Maybe not in Starcraft, but games with more complex rules and realistic settings often model elements like supply, atrittion, morale, officers, medics, engineers etc. Of course it happens on a high-level abstract scale suitable for the strategic gameplay.

Still, keeping an open mind for the possibility of new types of gameplay may be worthwhile, even though the chances are small. There may be some possibilities for management or logistical gameplay in the war setting. Traditional RPGs often focus on these gameplay types and the past also saw some promising attempts in this field. X-Com was an example of a successful representation of a more complete 'war simulator'.

Creating a game from the personal perspective of a war photographer or field medic is probably not going to be successful however, unless that character takes up a machinegun and becomes a hero (Morgan Freeman anyone?). We need a healthy dose of escapism in our games.
Investigative/adventure gameplay cloak and dagger style could work from a personal perspective though, the reporter or photographer character would fit that role well. Part puzzler, part stealth sim, part shooter are game mechanics that work well together and would suit a personal stoy.

Dastardly:
Nice article!

I'd love to see a game a la Battlefield in which your team's respawn rate is tied to the practices of your team's medic(s) -- if they're efficiently managing things, you can respawn faster or get a health bonus, and if not you might get less health, longer waits, or something.

Gameplay for the medic could involve what you described: managing supplies and patients, making split-second decisions, surgical mini-games...

I was just thinking that. Imagine a heavily modified Battlefield 2.

All the medics have to perform operations and such in a tent in the main base. The degree of success they have determines your respawn time, and how much health you have when you do respawn.

The photographers can increase support at home with well-taken shots, and this affects the game by increasing the ticket count or decreasing the bleed or something.

Recon teams are entirely possible within the mechanics of Battlefield. You just need to give them some new gadgets or whatever.

Bomb disposal is rather niche, although if the maps themselves contain IEDs they could be a useful kit to switch to.

Search+Rescue could be implemented by making soldiers incapacitated below a certain amount of health. All you'd need is a helicopter with no guns on it which gets points for picking those people up. Resupply could be the same helicopter, but it has to pick up ammo/health crates.

Remember: all the full medics are back at base. There's no healing without supplies or a player-piloted search+rescue/Medivac.

The other top-down roles can be assigned to the commander.

As for the economy behind the war machine, well, you need only look at Dust 514 to see a really good implementation of that. It ties into the economy of EVE online. The soldiers are as well equipped as the capsuleers want them to be.

Thyunda:

Siberian Relic:

Thyunda:
Now we're some dick with a camera taking pictures of atrocities and using war to further his own ends. What happens when there's no more war, wartime photographer? Will you organise turf wars between gangs to take pictures of? I think you would steal uranium and force countries to fight just so you could earn your Pulitzer Prize.

As others have said, the photojournalism you're talking about has a strong current of noble intentions, even though the dominant practice is to observe and document, not interact. And that has costs. War-time, crime, and similar conflict-oriented photographers are extremely apt to suffering significant types of PTSD. Kevin Carter, best known for snapping this photograph, eventually committed suicide. By his own admission, Carter was "haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain ... of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners...."

Right. But in a game, there are no noble intentions. You're not saving the world you're earning points based on the level of tragedy in your shot.

Why are we always assuming tragedy. You could snap pictures of soldiers interacting with the people they've "saved" (speechmarks purely because some people think differently), food handouts, people thanking the soldiers, soldiers risking it all to save their friends and succeeding.

It doesn't have to be tragic, it could just as easily be heroic or heartwarming too.

dogstile:

Thyunda:

Siberian Relic:

As others have said, the photojournalism you're talking about has a strong current of noble intentions, even though the dominant practice is to observe and document, not interact. And that has costs. War-time, crime, and similar conflict-oriented photographers are extremely apt to suffering significant types of PTSD. Kevin Carter, best known for snapping this photograph, eventually committed suicide. By his own admission, Carter was "haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain ... of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners...."

Right. But in a game, there are no noble intentions. You're not saving the world you're earning points based on the level of tragedy in your shot.

Why are we always assuming tragedy. You could snap pictures of soldiers interacting with the people they've "saved" (speechmarks purely because some people think differently), food handouts, people thanking the soldiers, soldiers risking it all to save their friends and succeeding.

It doesn't have to be tragic, it could just as easily be heroic or heartwarming too.

A game where you take pictures of soldiers shaking hands.

Thyunda:

dogstile:

Thyunda:

Right. But in a game, there are no noble intentions. You're not saving the world you're earning points based on the level of tragedy in your shot.

Why are we always assuming tragedy. You could snap pictures of soldiers interacting with the people they've "saved" (speechmarks purely because some people think differently), food handouts, people thanking the soldiers, soldiers risking it all to save their friends and succeeding.

It doesn't have to be tragic, it could just as easily be heroic or heartwarming too.

A game where you take pictures of soldiers shaking hands.

I suppose if you give it a mere second of thought, you could think of it like that. I'm just saying the entire game wouldn't have to be about tragedy. Of course good media can do tragedy well, but it doesn't need it.

As much as the idea appeals to me, I just don't see this being good for a game. Maybe a simulator, or something of the sorts. The point of a game is entertainment, and while this could be fun for some, gaming has reached out to a considerably broad market. Your average strategy game that isn't Civ, Starcraft, AoE, DoTA, or LoL is generally not very popular or close to the numbers of players that you see in any of the larger gaming communities of today. Ergo, the only people that would play it are people that enjoy that form of game. It's not something you'd pick up off the shelf just because you've heard things or it looks different. This generally tends to be a waste of developer's and publisher's money by those standards. I believe the problem with this generally extends from the amount of difficulty these possible games would present to the average player. The beautiful thing about a platformer is that it is relatively simple, but can still be so fun that you play it over and over and over, but you don't see that kind of high replay value in most FPS. Regarding FPS in general, it is a very watered down market these days, but look at it's origins. To be fair, FPS games are more complex than they ever were in the 90's. We are making progress but innovation is dangerous in any industry today simply due to the vast amount of money and risk that it involves. See "Scott Pilgrim v.s. The World" film. Great flick, great marketing, but no one showed up. For that reason, Universal won't green light anything that isn't garunteed to make money. This also happens in the game industry.

All that being said, I think we need to turn our eyes away from the AAA games and look to the indie market for this kind of innovation. These guys have lower budgets and can take big risks and introduce some amazingly great games. In fact, the only GOOD survival horror games I've played in the past two years were indie titles. (See "Amnesia: The Dark Descent" and "Lone Survivor" as examples.) Some of the best stuff I've played in general run on the most basic of machines. (Minecraft, Super Meat Boy, Braid, etc.) AAA gaming just isn't the place to have high hopes of innovation simply due to the risks involved with that kind of development and costs. However, we will see it once in a while when these bigger names choose to stand out from the usual bland shooter to give us something actually fun and worth playing over again. (See Skyrim that was visually amazing, but was actually fun to play and could be picked up by just about anyone, even outside the usual Bethesda fans. No DRM, no hashed in Multiplayer, and no On-Disc DLC.)

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