In response to "Issue 168: Boot Camp": I really enjoyed the issue, although I'm surprised how apolitical all the articles were. I guess it's understandable, given the sensitive nature of the conflicts, but it still seems odd to see so many games and articles portray modern warfare as politically blank.
Games based on earlier wars didn't really have this issue, although they were admittedly far more clear cut, and no one would ever be faulted for villainizing the Nazis. These older games and movies all focused heavily on the importance of the war itself, and the nature of the enemy they were fighting. In contrast, games and articles based upon modern war seem downright sterile. They speak about adapting, following procedure, and eliminating threats in the same manner a doctor might describe a surgery, or a manager might execute a business plan, which seems more than a little bizzarre to a person who grew up during the Cold War.
I'm not expecting politics, but the way the articles described it, the soldiers in these wars/games might as well be fighting cancer, providing disaster relief, or trying to climb the world's tallest mountain. The insurgents are barely mentioned at all, and when they are, they're described almost as if they were an event, rather than a group of people.
Perhaps everyone's just being cautious, uncertain of how to portray insurgents without seeming bigoted. On the other hand, what if the stark, blank portrayal of the enemy is a symptom of the fact that even now, after all this time, we still don't understand who we're fighting, or how to successfully defeat them? Now there's a thought that sends shivers down my spine.
- Robert Max Freeman
In response to "The Thinking Man's Warfare" from The Escapist Forum: This is a great article on a really interesting subject!
Perhaps one solution to making a game on irregular warfare as a mainstream entertainment product is to take the realistic setting away. People may be squeamish or uncomfortable playing as soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan, but if the same kind of circumstances were applied to a fantasy or sci-fi setting, it would be more palatable. You know, a game where you have to extinguish a dark elf insurgency in some imaginary land or something could still include all of the elements that need to be in this kind of game without being as controversial. People would still see the metaphor for the current wars, I'm sure.
I can understand why game designers haven't tackled unconventional modern era conflicts. First off a game should be fun or challenging or rewarding to some degree. Real war is not all that enjoyable. WWII era conflict plays more like chess or football with roughly equal teams maneuvering and acting in a strategic dance.
A modern Afghanistan game might have you patrol for weeks and then hit by mortar attack? How about briefly engaging an enemy that manages to ghost away into the sand? These modern conflicts are more focused on surviving an occupation and increasing stability in the region instead of "shootin' 'der badguy." Also unconventional warfare means the AI would have to be very clever and clever AI is not something that happens too often.
Personally I'd love to see a less bloodthirsty version of conflict in a video game. In much the same way that SWAT 4 rewards you for responding appropriately, dealing with nebulous enemies, collateral damage avoidance, civilians,and frustrating political censures.