Playing Call of Duty in Baghdad

Playing Call of Duty in Baghdad

In Baghdad, you become a connoisseur of bombs, able to tell the type and size by the sound it makes, and the way they feel. This feels like a car bomb - those, especially the really big ones, thump you in the chest.

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Why do Americans always say "connoisseur" ? The real French word is connaisseur ("knowledgeable", loosely translated - "connaissance" means "knowledge"). I'm genuinely curious.

It always irks me a little bit when someone says that Spec Ops fell short of its objective because it failed to make the player feel regret or shock. This is only my opinion and impression of the game, but I don't feel that that was necessarily its objective at all.

I actually found myself laughing at the two 'shocker' moments. Because they were rather predictable and blown out of proportion all the way down to the dying soldier who whimpers "we were just tryin'a... help..." The white phosphorous attack and the part where civilians lynch your comrade, to me, just felt like 'things' that happen. Whether you feel an emotion or not is purely personal, and doesn't make the event any less meaningless.

Likewise, why do you destroy the radio tower? Why assault the Burj? Why not take pleasure in killing? Why not just stop? For me the emptiness of the player's actions and the hollowness of your false choices were what made the game so relevant to real war.

It is possible that one of the intentions of the designers was to make you feel guilty for playing, though. If that is true, then yeah, I agree that is hilariously stupid.

Anyway, sorry for rambling, any mention of Spec Ops make me go into fanboy-mode.

Fantastic article, Weiss, and a great answer to why the military shooters are popular with our military. I've wondered this before, and my military friends couldn't say much more than, "it's fun." Great perspective on living in Baghdad too. I especially liked the vivid description of the rocket attack. Speaking of the security forces, were they good, professional, or did they fit the rather bad image that the media has made of them?

Furism: In English, connoisseur means "someone who is knowledgeable about a subject". It's the same spelling and meaning of the original French word pre-nineteenth century. The "real" French word used today is a derivation of that Middle-French word, which the French derived from the real Latin word cognocere (to know). In short, both English and French are not dead languages; the words and meanings shift through use over time. Might as well ask why we don't say "lift" when we mean "elevator".

If we're going to get esoteric and didactic, the etymology of connoisseur stems from the old french "conoiseor" which is from the Latin "cognoscitor" meaning "the knower"(and from which we get cognition). The Latin looks pretty similar to the Spanish "Conozco" also meaning "to know". And now we know. Something about half the battle.

Really enjoyed the article Mr. Weiss. I know precisely what you mean; I've lived it myself and I have no interest in a little boy's fantasy of what war is like. Don't get me wrong, the game is a fun action title, but it in no way represents anything remotely close to actual combat. If they wanted to do that, they'd make the loading screen anywhere from 2-12 hours, increase the heat in your house or lower it randomly, just so long as its unbearable, and make you have to pee. Then you'd have three second intervals to perform the right series maneuver or you'd die and everyone around you would too. Also you might die "just cause". There'd be no respawn.

The Private Security guys varied. Some were the bearded, calloused caricatures popularized by Academi (nee Xe (nee Blackwater)). Most, however, were professional, with varying degrees of collegiality. I worked with a team of Brits who were warm, funny, and fastidiously professional - they took me on dozens of runs through Baghdad, and I always felt safe (or as safe as I could feel) with them.

The Americans I worked with were equally professional, though quite cold and distant. Too many reveled in the bearded machismo of the gig, which annoyed me, but whatever. The State Department's Regional Security Officers (Federal agents dedicated to protecting diplomats) were top-notch - always easy and pleasant to work with.

TL, DR: Some were jerks, most weren't.

@Captain - I wanted to like Spec Ops so bad. In the end, it felt like a poor compromise between its artistic ambitions and the commercial demands placed on any mil shooter, these days. I definitely felt regret and shock - specifically, during the WP episode, which I thought was perfect, actually.

As for the linguistic queries, you make my English Major heart smile.

Thanks for the feedback!

Top notch article, sir, thank you for taking the time to write it.

Given the number of civilians and soliders who have served in recent conflicts I'm watching the 'realistic' shooter genre with a considerable amount of interest to see how, or if, it changes in the coming years.

George Page:
Furism: In English, connoisseur means [ snip ]

FTW, sir. FTW.

It is a very interesting divide, now that you say it. I like pretend war, pretend war is fun. Which is odd, since even if I've been fortunate to not experience one first hand, I understand (as much as a bystander can) that it's a horrid and undescribably miserable experience that does terrible things to good people. But, I suppose, as long as that understanding is there, that there is a very clear difference between jolly pretend war and the true terror and suffering that real war is, it isn't a danger in itself.

Perhaps that is something they ought to consider in school programmes. Perhaps getting veterans involved, and making sure that the understanding that pretend war is nothing at all like real war is teached.

I am a bit worried about what might come in the future, though. I'm mainly thinking of America's Army, which can't be the last in a series of army recruitment adverts in the form of action video games.

Furism:
Why do Americans always say "connoisseur" ? The real French word is connaisseur ("knowledgeable", loosely translated - "connaissance" means "knowledge"). I'm genuinely curious.

That's what you took away from this?

While a good article, some of your points just come across like your a fobbit. That being said, that's my only criticism, I enjoyed your article.

Interesting article, but on this point:

Richard Weiss:
It seems fitting that Call of Duty: Ghosts, the franchise's latest permutation, leaves the desert behind for speculative fiction. In this particular war story, a hijacked orbital weapon turns on America, smashing all modern infrastructure and plunging the erstwhile superpower into a dark age. The Ghosts, gun-toting knights-errant of the apocalypse, seek to restore America to its former glory.
...
Contrast Ghosts with Command and Conquer: Generals, a Real-Time Strategy game released just months before the 2003 invasion. In Generals, the armies of the United States deploy drones, orbital lasers, and supersonic bombers capable of shrieking past enemy air defenses. They are technologically superior, and overwhelming in their firepower.

In Ghosts, they can't even defend their own borders.

Modern Warfare 2 already did that 4 years ago, pretty much word for word. Sure, it was still well after the initial invasion of Iraq, but it can hardly be seen as a new post-withdrawal theme for CoD since it was years before the actual withdrawal, and apparently well before you were there yourself. And going to C&C as a contrast to how things were viewed in the past doesn't really work, since C&C: Red Alert already did the invasion of the US thing back in 1996.

What a fantastic read. Great writing from a unique perspective. Thats really all i had to say. Thanks for the article Richard Weiss

Kuredan:
If we're going to get esoteric and didactic, the etymology of connoisseur stems from the old french "conoiseor" which is from the Latin "cognoscitor" meaning "the knower"(and from which we get cognition). The Latin looks pretty similar to the Spanish "Conozco" also meaning "to know". And now we know. Something about half the battle.

George Page:

Furism: In English, connoisseur means "someone who is knowledgeable about a subject". It's the same spelling and meaning of the original French word pre-nineteenth century. The "real" French word used today is a derivation of that Middle-French word, which the French derived from the real Latin word cognocere (to know). In short, both English and French are not dead languages; the words and meanings shift through use over time. Might as well ask why we don't say "lift" when we mean "elevator".

Cool, thanks for the explanation that was enlightening! I have no shame asking questions about another language. I was taught that learning is all about asking questions when you wonder about something.

Roboterik:

That's what you took away from this?

I'm not Iraqi, American or a Soldier. So, yeah, the spelling and history of a given word in the article is the only thing that I wanted to know more about.

This is probably the best article I've read on this site.

I really felt like I was there, you did a superb job Mr. Weiss

Man. This was very effective. Great writing. Thank you for sharing your experiences. When you were playing the games, did it actually remove you from where you were? Did you feel engaged by the stories and drift off into that fantasy world the games were trying to create?

 

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