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Posted by EpicSteve (6471 posts) -
Six Days in Fallujah being cancelled is the best example of controversy that shouldn't exist.

Talking about videogames is one of my favorite things to do. I've been desperately trying to get back in the mojo of playing games and coming over to this fabulous website to bitch or praise. It isn't as easy as that now. The deployment is so cemented in my mind it's hard to think about much else right now. I got a fat stack of videogames right now that I've barely touched! I decided to trick myself into writing a thing and look into the relationship between war and entertainment.

I was mostly disturbed recently while reading a GameSpot article written by Laura Parker (whom I think is a wonderful journalist) titled, "EA, guns, and the dangers of brand identity". The article mostly goes into how stupid selling real weapons through Medal of Honor: Warfighter is. EA had the intention to donate some of that money from sold weapons to the families of fallen Special Operations troops. I think the intent is great, but who's really buying guns through a link on an EA site? Your opinions on that may vary, but this quote from Parker's article expresses this business adventure is wrong for the wrong reasons:

This is not the first time's EA's definition of authenticity has come into question. At E3 this year, GameSpot editor Tom Mc Shea questioned Warfighter's regenerating health as being in clear contrast with the game's painstaking efforts to be as "authentic" and realistic as possible.

"Military games have turned war into a silly good time, and yet they hide behind their realistic claims as if they're doing justice to the armed forces," Mc Shea argued. "In reality, they're exploiting the people who give their lives for a cause they believe in. By focusing on instant satisfaction and extreme accessibility, they turn real battles into a virtual fantasyland where no harm is lasting and no danger exists."

So is this stuff offensive? Maybe EA is throwing around the word "authentic" too loosely, but that's an individual opinion and reviews will judge the final product. Trust me Mr. Mc Shea, I appreciate the attempted defense but you're being the disrespectful one here, not EA. I thought about articles based around the idea of the above quote during my first firefight...

It was my second day in Afghanistan, my Platoon and I were conducting a dismounted patrol down a known Taliban supply route. I heard a snap of a traveling round and saw one of our Afghan Army allies go down. The awesome power of Taliban mortar fire and sporadic machine gun fire was louder and more intimidating than any range I've been on. A lot was on my mind that day, but the whole world stopped for that moment to happen. In my mind, at that moment, nothing else existed. The whole world was this mountain and the entire population was shooting guns. I immediately jumped into a ditch, for my first time “in the shit” was the most disorienting moment of my life.

“Happy Halloween and welcome to Afghanistan!”, said a soldier next to me. While our medics were working on the fallen Afghan; I returned fire with my SAW to allow the safe evacuation of the wounded. It wasn't something I actually thought about doing, it was reflex. The bad guys were only getting closer, self defense and preservation of my friends took over any rational thought like staying inside that nice comfy ditch. Then I learned that the guy with the machine gun (me) gathers a lot of unwanted attention. There I had a realization that I’m living a cliché moment that I’ve taken in as entertainment since I could walk. I was nearly deaf from the barrage of rockets and my own weapon; branches were snapping above me, there was constant movement everywhere, yelling from friendlies and enemy, it was utter chaos.

Band of Brothers is probably the best portrayal of military events for entertainment.

I’ve spent my whole life watching war movies, playing guns as a kid, and enjoying shooting games. That evening, some of us gathered around the TV to play a few rounds of Call of Duty. I thought to myself that this should be fucking weird. I mean, I just fired real weapons in a real war. But it wasn’t. Playing Call of Duty that evening felt as natural as any other play session. I'm not really a fan of the game in the first place, but I took advantage of the opportunity to unwind. It reminded me of all the controversy around violent videogames in the mid 90’s. That controversy feels pettier than ever now. What war videogames are today cannot obtain parity with the real world. Therefore, those games have a virtually impossible time correlating with people’s negative or positive feelings involving anything real.

The bulk of shooters are so disconnected from reality, I get really put-off anytime someone claims these titles are glorifying war or that they’re disrespectful to the troops. Does Game Dev Story speak any volume to making games? I just throw a music guy in an office and magic trumpets make real videogame soundtracks better, right? Does that trivialize the hard work and creativity of developers? Clearly, I can’t speak for the entire armed forces community for I would be as guilty as some of these writers on the Internet making these claims. However, every soldier I know plays these games or respects them from a distance. And in my experience, soldiers are the most difficult people to offend to begin with.

Most Blockbuster shooters are so cartoonish, it’s impossible to take them seriously anyhow, and those that claim to be “military simulators” don’t go far enough in presentation to risk freighting anyone. We live in a world in which 1-3 American soldiers come home in boxes everyday. I can see why civilians would cause an uproar about Six Days in Fallujah letting you partake in a conflict that at the time was taking the lives of young American men and women, but you can’t spend your life being shield for a group you aren’t apart of. History will show American GIs are good at defending themselves. Medal Of Honor did a decent job at portraying the early days of the Afghanistan war as explained in history books and that's good enough for me to excuse the "authentic" label. At a certain point, it needs to be a videogame.

When EA bowed to pressure to take the Taliban out of Medal of Honor’s multiplayer in service of “Opposing Force” and Konami scrapping Six Days in Fallujah are examples of cowering from a vocal minority. With EA, advertising real weapons through a game that claims to be a salute to the Special Operations community is kind of weird. But no one in uniform is making a picket sign. I believe most soldiers have more important things to worry about. Art of War teaches that a society needs to acknowledge and (using this term loosely) respect their enemy. Going far enough to make muslim men in robes and AKs in a videogame fighting Americans but ignoring who they actually are is the real crime. EA can continue making weird PR moves with Medal of Honor, but the soldiers I know wouldn’t care to play as Taliban in multiplayer (maybe they’ll lose on purpose). But I know I do get up in arms when civilians with microphones but without service under their belt tell their listeners a videogame is hurting my feelings.

If a developer wants to make a Call of Duty style videogame based on my experiences, I would be flattered. While it would be inaccurate, videogames are for fun. Once I brought a small toy water gun to school in a post Columbine massacre world and paid hard for that mistake. People have a habit with freaking out over dumb stuff. Thinking about the ratio of shooters that have been released since 2001 and those that explicitly say "this is Afghanistan, you're fighting Taliban, GO!" is in the favor of non-descriped middle eastern towns fighting God only knows. Not all takes on war will be Generation Kill but I'm also always down for a silly tale of glorifying war. Remember Act of Valor? It was pretty much a SEAL recrutement video, but that scene with the boat was badass. Remember that sniper level in Call of Duty 4? Badass. Undo your ties and stop looking for controversy.

-Steven Beynon

#1 Edited by EpicSteve (6471 posts) -
Six Days in Fallujah being cancelled is the best example of controversy that shouldn't exist.

Talking about videogames is one of my favorite things to do. I've been desperately trying to get back in the mojo of playing games and coming over to this fabulous website to bitch or praise. It isn't as easy as that now. The deployment is so cemented in my mind it's hard to think about much else right now. I got a fat stack of videogames right now that I've barely touched! I decided to trick myself into writing a thing and look into the relationship between war and entertainment.

I was mostly disturbed recently while reading a GameSpot article written by Laura Parker (whom I think is a wonderful journalist) titled, "EA, guns, and the dangers of brand identity". The article mostly goes into how stupid selling real weapons through Medal of Honor: Warfighter is. EA had the intention to donate some of that money from sold weapons to the families of fallen Special Operations troops. I think the intent is great, but who's really buying guns through a link on an EA site? Your opinions on that may vary, but this quote from Parker's article expresses this business adventure is wrong for the wrong reasons:

This is not the first time's EA's definition of authenticity has come into question. At E3 this year, GameSpot editor Tom Mc Shea questioned Warfighter's regenerating health as being in clear contrast with the game's painstaking efforts to be as "authentic" and realistic as possible.

"Military games have turned war into a silly good time, and yet they hide behind their realistic claims as if they're doing justice to the armed forces," Mc Shea argued. "In reality, they're exploiting the people who give their lives for a cause they believe in. By focusing on instant satisfaction and extreme accessibility, they turn real battles into a virtual fantasyland where no harm is lasting and no danger exists."

So is this stuff offensive? Maybe EA is throwing around the word "authentic" too loosely, but that's an individual opinion and reviews will judge the final product. Trust me Mr. Mc Shea, I appreciate the attempted defense but you're being the disrespectful one here, not EA. I thought about articles based around the idea of the above quote during my first firefight...

It was my second day in Afghanistan, my Platoon and I were conducting a dismounted patrol down a known Taliban supply route. I heard a snap of a traveling round and saw one of our Afghan Army allies go down. The awesome power of Taliban mortar fire and sporadic machine gun fire was louder and more intimidating than any range I've been on. A lot was on my mind that day, but the whole world stopped for that moment to happen. In my mind, at that moment, nothing else existed. The whole world was this mountain and the entire population was shooting guns. I immediately jumped into a ditch, for my first time “in the shit” was the most disorienting moment of my life.

“Happy Halloween and welcome to Afghanistan!”, said a soldier next to me. While our medics were working on the fallen Afghan; I returned fire with my SAW to allow the safe evacuation of the wounded. It wasn't something I actually thought about doing, it was reflex. The bad guys were only getting closer, self defense and preservation of my friends took over any rational thought like staying inside that nice comfy ditch. Then I learned that the guy with the machine gun (me) gathers a lot of unwanted attention. There I had a realization that I’m living a cliché moment that I’ve taken in as entertainment since I could walk. I was nearly deaf from the barrage of rockets and my own weapon; branches were snapping above me, there was constant movement everywhere, yelling from friendlies and enemy, it was utter chaos.

Band of Brothers is probably the best portrayal of military events for entertainment.

I’ve spent my whole life watching war movies, playing guns as a kid, and enjoying shooting games. That evening, some of us gathered around the TV to play a few rounds of Call of Duty. I thought to myself that this should be fucking weird. I mean, I just fired real weapons in a real war. But it wasn’t. Playing Call of Duty that evening felt as natural as any other play session. I'm not really a fan of the game in the first place, but I took advantage of the opportunity to unwind. It reminded me of all the controversy around violent videogames in the mid 90’s. That controversy feels pettier than ever now. What war videogames are today cannot obtain parity with the real world. Therefore, those games have a virtually impossible time correlating with people’s negative or positive feelings involving anything real.

The bulk of shooters are so disconnected from reality, I get really put-off anytime someone claims these titles are glorifying war or that they’re disrespectful to the troops. Does Game Dev Story speak any volume to making games? I just throw a music guy in an office and magic trumpets make real videogame soundtracks better, right? Does that trivialize the hard work and creativity of developers? Clearly, I can’t speak for the entire armed forces community for I would be as guilty as some of these writers on the Internet making these claims. However, every soldier I know plays these games or respects them from a distance. And in my experience, soldiers are the most difficult people to offend to begin with.

Most Blockbuster shooters are so cartoonish, it’s impossible to take them seriously anyhow, and those that claim to be “military simulators” don’t go far enough in presentation to risk freighting anyone. We live in a world in which 1-3 American soldiers come home in boxes everyday. I can see why civilians would cause an uproar about Six Days in Fallujah letting you partake in a conflict that at the time was taking the lives of young American men and women, but you can’t spend your life being shield for a group you aren’t apart of. History will show American GIs are good at defending themselves. Medal Of Honor did a decent job at portraying the early days of the Afghanistan war as explained in history books and that's good enough for me to excuse the "authentic" label. At a certain point, it needs to be a videogame.

When EA bowed to pressure to take the Taliban out of Medal of Honor’s multiplayer in service of “Opposing Force” and Konami scrapping Six Days in Fallujah are examples of cowering from a vocal minority. With EA, advertising real weapons through a game that claims to be a salute to the Special Operations community is kind of weird. But no one in uniform is making a picket sign. I believe most soldiers have more important things to worry about. Art of War teaches that a society needs to acknowledge and (using this term loosely) respect their enemy. Going far enough to make muslim men in robes and AKs in a videogame fighting Americans but ignoring who they actually are is the real crime. EA can continue making weird PR moves with Medal of Honor, but the soldiers I know wouldn’t care to play as Taliban in multiplayer (maybe they’ll lose on purpose). But I know I do get up in arms when civilians with microphones but without service under their belt tell their listeners a videogame is hurting my feelings.

If a developer wants to make a Call of Duty style videogame based on my experiences, I would be flattered. While it would be inaccurate, videogames are for fun. Once I brought a small toy water gun to school in a post Columbine massacre world and paid hard for that mistake. People have a habit with freaking out over dumb stuff. Thinking about the ratio of shooters that have been released since 2001 and those that explicitly say "this is Afghanistan, you're fighting Taliban, GO!" is in the favor of non-descriped middle eastern towns fighting God only knows. Not all takes on war will be Generation Kill but I'm also always down for a silly tale of glorifying war. Remember Act of Valor? It was pretty much a SEAL recrutement video, but that scene with the boat was badass. Remember that sniper level in Call of Duty 4? Badass. Undo your ties and stop looking for controversy.

-Steven Beynon

#2 Posted by Phatmac (5721 posts) -

Hey Steve been meaning to ask you what your thoughts on Spec Ops: The Line. What did you think about it? Back to this post I find it weird that jurnos like McShea talk about war and the experience of it so loosely. Anyway good read and it meshs well with my thoughts on war games.

#3 Posted by EpicSteve (6471 posts) -

@Phatmac said:

Hey Steve been meaning to ask you what your thoughts on Spec Ops: The Line. What did you think about it? Back to this post I find it weird that jurnos like McShea talk about war and the experience of it so loosely. Anyway good read and it meshs well with my thoughts on war games.

I wrote a review for that game you can find here. I didn't think it was so awesome. I appreciated the build up to total insanity, but it was wrapped in a crappy game.

#4 Posted by Video_Game_King (35992 posts) -

@EpicSteve said:

I was mostly disturbed recently while reading a GameSpot article written by Laura Parker (whom I think is a wonderful journalist) titled, "EA, guns, and the dangers of bran identity".

Bran must never become sentient. It will be the end of us.

Online
#5 Edited by c0l0nelp0c0rn1 (1803 posts) -

@EpicSteve said:

What war videogames are today cannot obtain parody with the real world. Therefore, those games have a virtually impossible time correlating with people’s negative or positive feelings involving anything real.

Hate to go all copy editor on this awesome piece you wrote here, but did you mean parity?

Right, I agree with you but for different reasons. Loss in any kind of physical sense is impossible to accurately capture in video game form. You can go for emotional loss if you've got some good writing or a surrealistic presentation, but by and large it's nigh-on impossible to evoke feelings of loss with a video game.

Edit: Guess beat me to it.

#6 Posted by Turambar (6675 posts) -

Shooters need to be fun, and inaccuracies will inevitably arise as a result.  That part I understand.  But don't you think it is problematic that despite the concessions made for playability, publishers still attempt to market it it as realistic?  I don't necessarily agree with McShea that they are inherently exploitative, but if real fighting men and women will pick up a Call of Duty or Medal of Honor and call it cartoonish, claims of "authenticity" from the publishers of those games are not going to sit well with me.

#7 Edited by wumbo3000 (937 posts) -

Great piece. I'm really glad someone with actual military experience is writing this. I hate, hate, hate it when people defend a cause that they have no experience in. Let the soldiers actually in the military deem whether a game based on war is offensive or not. On that same note, I'm really upset Six Days in Fallujah was cancelled over people claiming/assuming that the game was being offensive.

LET THE PEOPLE WHO'VE ACTUALLY BEEN IN WAR DECIDE WHETHER A WAR VIDEO GAME IS OFFENSIVE OR NOT.

Gah, people who try to defend others and act like they're taking the moral high ground really irritate me.

#8 Edited by EpicSteve (6471 posts) -

@c0l0nelp0c0rn1 said:

@EpicSteve said:

What war videogames are today cannot obtain parody with the real world. Therefore, those games have a virtually impossible time correlating with people’s negative or positive feelings involving anything real.

Hate to go all copy editor on this awesome piece you wrote here, but did you mean parity?

Right, I agree with you but for different reasons. Loss in any kind of physical sense is impossible to accurately capture in video game form. You can go for emotional loss if you've got some good writing or a surrealistic presentation, but by and large it's nigh-on impossible to evoke feelings of loss with a video game.

Edit: Guess beat me to it.

Nope, Meant what I said.

@Turambar said:

Shooters need to be fun, and inaccuracies will inevitably arise as a result. That part I understand. But don't you think it is problematic that despite the concessions made for playability, publishers still attempt to market it it as realistic? I don't necessarily agree with McShea that they are inherently exploitative, but if real fighting men and women will pick up a Call of Duty or Medal of Honor and call it cartoonish, claims of "authenticity" from the publishers of those games are not going to sit well with me.

That's a taste thing. There isn't anything wrong with something seemingly cartoonish having a backdrop grounded in reality.

#9 Posted by laserbolts (5311 posts) -

Thanks for the write up. It was great and interesting. It is weird how most people that get offended and feel the need to speak up about it are the ones that have nothing to do with the subject at hand. It really is annoying.

#10 Posted by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

The only thing that has ever really bothered me has been when things are trying too hard to seem more authentic than they are, or when they get things like the difference between "hooah" and "oorah" wrong. Other than that, games are games, and as long as they aren't blatantly disrespectful or trying to make a pretty penny off of the people who serve, I am of the opinion that people need to stop caring.

In fact, I want to see MORE of the stuff people say is "offensive." Give us the stuff that your marketing department says is going too far. I can blow the arm off of a Russian in Call of Duty, but the second someone tries to portray war or service members a certain way, the red flags go up and the media has a field day.

Actually, the stuff that bugs me in military games tend to be logic issues, which is unfair and I usually don't give the devs a hard time for it, because if my knowledge of tactics, techniques, etc are pretty limited after about 6 months of mild study of the subject, it's silly to expect some guy with a massive beard and a love of vectors to have a clue about proper breaching or trigger control or whatever. Or when a game like ArmA doesn't simulate the things it should, but that doesn't offend me, I just wish it did those things because wouldn't that be awesome?

But hey, that's life. Civilians will get pissed off "for" the troops, the troops will keep on not giving a fuck, and I'll be stuck in between both worlds.

#11 Posted by deathstriker666 (1337 posts) -

There's no doubt EA's marketing is exploitative. "Buy our game and we'll give some pocket change from the sales to veterans! What are you? Someone who hates America and our troops? Buy our game!" It's another desperate attempt to usurp CoD's sales.

I haven't played the new Medal of Honor, but the "old" ones about WW2 didn't even come close to being realistic. Instant heal health packs, conveniently placed hole-in-walls to progress through levels, etc. Hell, you never fought in squads and rarely saw any friendly allies. Even with the occasional allied soldier to fight alongside, they were dumb as bricks and would die as fast as they spawned into battle. I wouldn't call them glorifying War though, there was almost no story to any of them. Just you killing thousands of Germans with Nazi arm patches by yourself. A dull, thoughtless grind with some variation in settings.

#12 Posted by believer258 (11630 posts) -

This was a pretty good read and a pretty good bit of insight from someone who's actually been in a warzone. Thanks for saying this, it needed to be said; unfortunately, it probably won't reach the ears it needs to.

Online
#13 Posted by drewbert (2194 posts) -

Wow, great post, Steve. Answers some things I've always wondered about. Thank you!

Staff
#14 Posted by 1p (760 posts) -

Thanks for the insight, Steve! I'm happy that you made it through your deployment.

#15 Edited by Laiv162560asse (487 posts) -

Thoughtful post, but I don't really agree with any of it. Tom McShea isn't necessarily criticising EA on behalf of servicemen and -women when he mentions exploitation. I think we can all assume that the armed forces are made of sterner stuff and they aren't going to lose much sleep over how they're depicted in videogames. However, soldiers are not the target of the exploitation being discussed - rather it is the consumers who are more likely to dig money out of their wallets based on the promise of an 'authentic' military experience. If you agree that the games have no authenticity, as you do, then you must also agree that your experience is being used as a tool of exploitation by EA. 

Soldiers are not the only people whose personal principles matter when talking about the issue of armed conflict. It doesn't really matter whether you feel aggrieved that EA are doing this or not, just that EA are doing it, and it's probably worth somebody pointing it out, which I believe is all that McShea is doing.

#16 Posted by GreggD (4477 posts) -

@Laivasse: McShea went about it all wrong. He's an idiot with no point, trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. The thing is, everything, except for the reaction to bullets is authentic in Medal of Honor. They're using real guns, real tactics, and real situations (or at least, situations based on real combat scenarios of the last decade). The problem with McShea's argument is that it's all about characters respawning after death. OF COURSE YOU'RE GONNA DO THAT, it's a goddamned video game!

But I digress. I'd actually like to know what your thoughts are on the original Bad Company game,

#17 Posted by EpicSteve (6471 posts) -

@Laivasse said:

Thoughtful post, but I don't really agree with any of it. Tom McShea isn't necessarily criticising EA on behalf of servicemen and -women when he mentions exploitation. I think we can all assume that the armed forces are made of sterner stuff and they aren't going to lose much sleep over how they're depicted in videogames. However, soldiers are not the target of the exploitation being discussed - rather it is the consumers who are more likely to dig money out of their wallets based on the promise of an 'authentic' military experience. If you agree that the games have no authenticity, as you do, then you must also agree that your experience is being used as a tool of exploitation by EA.

Soldiers are not the only people whose personal principles matter when talking about the issue of armed conflict. It doesn't really matter whether you feel aggrieved that EA are doing this or not, just that EA are doing it, and it's probably worth somebody pointing it out, which I believe is all that McShea is doing.

That's a completely fair stance. I just get really bothered when outsiders of any group try and defend the group. This goes way back to me being a child and seeing parent groups trying to ban violent videogames because they were slowly turning me into a lunatic.

@GreggD said:

@Laivasse: McShea went about it all wrong. He's an idiot with no point, trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. The thing is, everything, except for the reaction to bullets is authentic in Medal of Honor. They're using real guns, real tactics, and real situations (or at least, situations based on real combat scenarios of the last decade). The problem with McShea's argument is that it's all about characters respawning after death. OF COURSE YOU'RE GONNA DO THAT, it's a goddamned video game!

But I digress. I'd actually like to know what your thoughts are on the original Bad Company game,

I can deal with the word "authentic" being tied to those elements of the game. Because, yes, it needs to be a videogame. With Bad Company, I'm not 100% sure what you're asking. It was a solid game with some good characters and is probably the best example of a shooter giving real weight to the guns. But with gold stealing and AWOL, I'm not getting what you mean.

#18 Posted by Laiv162560asse (487 posts) -

@GreggD I've seen the Goodrich debate and agree that McShea did a bad job by making his argument revolve around a couple of gameplay mechanics. That doesn't mean he had no point in the first place, just that he didn't have the intellectual wherewithal to back it up - or maybe he just misplaced his cojones when faced with an angry EA producer. Authenticity is more than just bubblegum mimickry of real life with some real world brand names slapped on, which is why Medal of Honor is no more an authentic experience of warfare than NFS: Hot Pursuit is an authentic experience of driving. Is that a problem? Only when you're adopting a mantle of authenticity, as EA have been doing.

'It's just a videogame' doesn't cut it as a get-out clause either, since entertainment media is not all morally neutral. Black Hawn Down didn't escape criticisms of the fact that it trivialised and misrepresented a real world conflict, in a casually racist way, because 'it's just a film'. Sure it has a right to exist, but if you've put out an entertainment product which uses real conflict and suffering as your subject matter, you have to sit up and eat the critical flak over it if you're glossing over certain elements for your own convenience. In the case of EA, they're leveraging the emotional connotations of war for more than just convenience, they're doing it to increase the marketability of their product. That continued in the McShea debate, with Goodrich adopting the line of 'these people are fighting so you and I can enjoy these video games!', in a further cheap attempt to associate his game with people in real theatres of war. If anything's worthy of criticism it's not McShea but the cynical marketing of people like Goodrich. How servicemen feel about EA's approach is not my business, but as someone who, like McShea, is a potential customer of EA with my own views on war, I'm totally happy to see EA called out on their approach.

#19 Edited by MrSpaceMan (118 posts) -

What the hell!?

@Laivasse said:

Black Hawn Down didn't escape criticisms of the fact that it trivialised and misrepresented a real world conflict, in a casually racist way,

#20 Posted by Laiv162560asse (487 posts) -
@MrSpaceMan said:

What the hell!?

@Laivasse said:

Black Hawn Down didn't escape criticisms of the fact that it trivialised and misrepresented a real world conflict, in a casually racist way,

Somalis in America called for a boycott of the film because it was dehumanising. The sight of wave after wave of bloodthirsty Somalis attacking US troops is kind of lacking in nuance, no?
#21 Posted by Undeadpool (4908 posts) -

It's always struck me that the people who tend to shout the loudest about how offensive something is generally aren't the ones who should be offended. Glad to see that reaches all the way across race, creed and gender aaaall the way into branches of the military.

Great write-up, in any event. I've actually seen a few articles talking about using modern military shooters to treat shell-shock of all things, so it's cool to see an actual first-hand impression of these games instead of reading a study.

#22 Edited by EpicSteve (6471 posts) -

@Laivasse said:

@MrSpaceMan said:

What the hell!?

@Laivasse said:

Black Hawn Down didn't escape criticisms of the fact that it trivialised and misrepresented a real world conflict, in a casually racist way,

Somalis in America called for a boycott of the film because it was dehumanising. The sight of wave after wave of bloodthirsty Somalis attacking US troops is kind of lacking in nuance, no?

That's what happened... Nearly 1,000 of Somalians died while attacking the Special Operations forces. They got all jacked on khat which made them aggressive and willing to go toe to toe with Americans. Wouldn't say it's "racist". I wasn't there, but I'm pretty confident that most of the insurgents fought in Somalia were Somalian.

#23 Posted by chikin_n_rofls (138 posts) -

Great read, duder! I sincerely thank you for your service.

#24 Posted by mrfluke (5090 posts) -

Undo your ties and stop looking for controversy.

great read duder,

but i mean,that's sensationalist press for you, they are always looking for the stupidest minute things to blow up into a big controversy

Online
#25 Posted by RetroVirus (1457 posts) -

Excellent read, duder.

#26 Edited by Laiv162560asse (487 posts) -
@EpicSteve said:

@Laivasse said:

@MrSpaceMan said:

What the hell!?

@Laivasse said:

Black Hawn Down didn't escape criticisms of the fact that it trivialised and misrepresented a real world conflict, in a casually racist way,

Somalis in America called for a boycott of the film because it was dehumanising. The sight of wave after wave of bloodthirsty Somalis attacking US troops is kind of lacking in nuance, no?

That's what happened... Nearly 1,000 of Somalians died while attacking the Special Operations forces. They got all jacked on khat which made them aggressive and willing to go toe to toe with Americans. Wouldn't say it's "racists". I wasn't there, but I'm pretty confident that most of the insurgents fought in Somalia were Somalian.

So the film showed a conflict with Africans, and Africans are black - but that's not quite good enough since there are further questions to be explored such as whether the US played a role in precipitating the battle in the first place, eg. by providing training and arms to Somalis when times were more friendly and by backing corrupt Somali regimes. Also, although all the black people killed in the conflict were Somalis, very few, possibly none, of the actors depicting them in BHD were Somalis, so viewers are encouraged to think that Somalis just look like black Americans. The Red Cross also tallies the civilian death toll at 200 out of that 1000 - even if only a tenth of that number were truly non-combatants, that's still a higher number killed than the 18 American military deaths which comprise the whole emotional core of that film. There is a clear disparity between value of life. An actor from within the production even criticised the film and said he had a speech which was cut which otherwise would have revealed the nuances of the conflict.

Regardless - that's all irrelevant. Black Hawk Down was merely an example of how entertainment media doesn't get a free pass in how it depicts conflict (and this discussion just furthers that example). Therefore Medal of Honour doesn't get to use the defence of 'it's just a game', either.

#27 Edited by Kieran_ES (258 posts) -

@EpicSteve: I think the suggestion at the time was that the Somalis were left as one-dimensional caricatures of a misrepresented culture. The film also shied away from addressing anything but the rote, American narrative of the conflict (not that it is the film's prerogative to explore the Somalian one necessarily but it helps ..).

Edit: And this was a really interesting read. Although I have a lot of problems with the way most games depict war, I've never really worried about them being disrespectful to soldiers. If it is, they (you) will likely call it out.

@Laivasse: The phrase 'it's just a game' has become a weird way of defending things. Similarly, simply expecting a game to be fun and nothing more is genuinely sad to me. Yeah, plenty of games should just be fun but not every movie or book you consume is going to be purely fun .. so why should every game be?

#28 Posted by mak_wikus (503 posts) -

It was my second day in Afghanistan, my Platoon and I were conducting a dismounted patrol down a known Taliban supply route. I heard a snap of a traveling round and saw one of our Afghan Army allies go down. The awesome power of Taliban mortar fire and sporadic machine gun fire was louder and more intimidating than any range I've been on. A lot was on my mind that day, but the whole world stopped for that moment to happen. In my mind, at that moment, nothing else existed. The whole world was this mountain and the entire population was shooting guns. I immediately jumped into a ditch, for my first time “in the shit” was the most disorienting moment of my life.

I want a game, a level, something! based on this paragraph.

Online
#29 Posted by GreggD (4477 posts) -

@EpicSteve said:

@Laivasse said:

Thoughtful post, but I don't really agree with any of it. Tom McShea isn't necessarily criticising EA on behalf of servicemen and -women when he mentions exploitation. I think we can all assume that the armed forces are made of sterner stuff and they aren't going to lose much sleep over how they're depicted in videogames. However, soldiers are not the target of the exploitation being discussed - rather it is the consumers who are more likely to dig money out of their wallets based on the promise of an 'authentic' military experience. If you agree that the games have no authenticity, as you do, then you must also agree that your experience is being used as a tool of exploitation by EA.

Soldiers are not the only people whose personal principles matter when talking about the issue of armed conflict. It doesn't really matter whether you feel aggrieved that EA are doing this or not, just that EA are doing it, and it's probably worth somebody pointing it out, which I believe is all that McShea is doing.

That's a completely fair stance. I just get really bothered when outsiders of any group try and defend the group. This goes way back to me being a child and seeing parent groups trying to ban violent videogames because they were slowly turning me into a lunatic.

@GreggD said:

@Laivasse: McShea went about it all wrong. He's an idiot with no point, trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. The thing is, everything, except for the reaction to bullets is authentic in Medal of Honor. They're using real guns, real tactics, and real situations (or at least, situations based on real combat scenarios of the last decade). The problem with McShea's argument is that it's all about characters respawning after death. OF COURSE YOU'RE GONNA DO THAT, it's a goddamned video game!

But I digress. I'd actually like to know what your thoughts are on the original Bad Company game,

I can deal with the word "authentic" being tied to those elements of the game. Because, yes, it needs to be a videogame. With Bad Company, I'm not 100% sure what you're asking. It was a solid game with some good characters and is probably the best example of a shooter giving real weight to the guns. But with gold stealing and AWOL, I'm not getting what you mean.

I mean it's representation of the military through the madcap antics of B-Company and their general disregard for military procedure. I know it's meant to be an action-comedy, but I was just curious if you thought it painted any portion of military life negatively. I don't think it does, personally, just thought I'd ask, since you're actually in the military and such.

#30 Posted by EpicSteve (6471 posts) -

I mean it's representation of the military through the madcap antics of B-Company and their general disregard for military procedure. I know it's meant to be an action-comedy, but I was just curious if you thought it painted any portion of military life negatively. I don't think it does, personally, just thought I'd ask, since you're actually in the military and such.

Just a silly fictional story. Nothing wrong with that. I'm also a fan of Three Kings.

#31 Posted by oldenglishC (922 posts) -

This is the most interesting piece of non-comedy content in the history of this site.

Now put the keyboard down and go play some god damn video games!

#32 Posted by GreggD (4477 posts) -

@EpicSteve said:

I mean it's representation of the military through the madcap antics of B-Company and their general disregard for military procedure. I know it's meant to be an action-comedy, but I was just curious if you thought it painted any portion of military life negatively. I don't think it does, personally, just thought I'd ask, since you're actually in the military and such.

Just a silly fictional story. Nothing wrong with that. I'm also a fan of Three Kings.

Alright, cool. :)

#33 Posted by TeflonBilly (4713 posts) -

Excellent read. Very well written and nice to get that view of an "insider" if you will.

I'd love to see a video of the veterans who worked with the team on the new Medal Of Honor go visit Tom McShea and have him try to shame them like he tried to do with the producer in that shitty interview.

#34 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11473 posts) -

This was an interesting read. Keep it up!

#35 Posted by Silvergun (297 posts) -

@EpicSteve said:

That's what happened... Nearly 1,000 of Somalians died while attacking the Special Operations forces. They got all jacked on khat which made them aggressive and willing to go toe to toe with Americans. Wouldn't say it's "racist". I wasn't there, but I'm pretty confident that most of the insurgents fought in Somalia were Somalian.

The problem is, they've got ~2 hours to try and tell a story, and especially for something as complex as millitary conflict, it's hard enough to do justice to one side of the conflict, let alone both.

A great example of this is Flags of Our Fathers, a Clint Eastwood directed movie about the battle of Iwo Jima, and shows the American perspective of the conflict. What made it interesting is that after it was finished, Eastwood turns around and makes Letters from Iwo Jima, which is Iwo Jimo from the perspective of the Japanese. I can't really vouch for how accurate either were (I've heard they're both quite good), but it's an interesting example of showing both sides in a conflict.

#36 Posted by Patman99 (1558 posts) -

While I think many forms of media attempt to glorify war or, like you said, attach an identity to war that is far from the truth, I think there a certain movies/shows people should be forced to watch regardless of occupation or place in society. Saving Private Ryan, and Band of Brothers (Specifically Part 8) do an excellent job at putting the whole idea of war, and specifically WWII in great perspective. Perhaps the most moving scene was at the end of Band of Brothers Part 8 in which the narrator (who is portraying a private in the 101st) said something along the lines of now that the war was beginning to wind down, people back home (the USA) were loosening up, going to movies, having a drink at night clubs, and in general getting back to normal life. Meanwhile, they show a squad of soldiers dodging mortar fire. Now if that doesn't get you to think about war in general, and not just WWII, then I don't know what will. I'm not even an American and I get moved by scenes like that.

#37 Edited by deathstriker666 (1337 posts) -

I can see how Black Hawk Down dehumanises Somalis, but it's not a "War" movie in the sense of FMJ or Saving Private Ryan. It's an action movie. It's not tied down with political messages and doesn't have much in terms of story or characters. Just some minor subplots in the beginning to give some background and nothing but pure combat till the end of the movie. It's true that you never get to see the perspective of a Somali militant or understand why they are fighting Americans, but the American characters don't really have much in terms of depth. I found that there were too many main characters and it was really hard to tell who's who with the same gear they have on in the middle of combat. Introductions happen so fast and the movie never seems to linger on the same character for more than a minute. Though you can't really fault the movie for that, it was never its intent.

It's also true that every of the few dozen or so American causality is given much much dramatic importance than the thousand or so of the Somalis that died that day, but at least it shows that the Americans were taking losses. Movies like Act of Valor love to portray a sense of invincibility and glorify the capability of every soldier. In fact, this is one of the reasons why I love Black Hawk Down so much as opposed to all the crap that comes out of Hollywood. It's not blatant propaganda and doesn't try to force some political message down your throat or have some sappy love story attached to it. It does what it does best, pure intense action.

Fucking love Riddley Scott

#38 Posted by Sploder (917 posts) -

Awesome post Steve, you should submit this to a few sites and see if you can get paid for it.

#39 Posted by two_socks (223 posts) -

Thanks for posting this duder. Always interesting to see what real-live soldiers have to say about all this videogame stuff. Very enlightening.

#40 Posted by R3DT1D3 (170 posts) -
...and those [shooters] that claim to be “military simulators” don’t go far enough in presentation to risk freighting anyone.

So what would you say about something like ArmA 3? Obviously it's not out yet but with the presentation level of the series rapidly improving, I could see issues crop up (particularly PTSD related issues).

#41 Posted by D_W (1124 posts) -

This was a real interesting read. Thanks for writing it. I've often wondered what real soldiers thought of these games.

#42 Posted by poisonmonkey (326 posts) -

Brilliant Steve, thanks for writing this, very interesting.

#43 Posted by bonafide (35 posts) -

I think everyone else has already said what I wanted to say, but I just wanted to comment anyway and say: Great piece!

#44 Posted by Dagbiker (6939 posts) -

Good Piece. I am not in the forces, and war games dont offend me, although buying guns from a video game dosent seem like the smartest thing to put in a game, but you can already buy guns online so...

But I know my brother, who is a Marine, cant watch war movies or play FPS's anymore. Reminds him of the "Motivational" movies they showed him.

#45 Posted by Lava (661 posts) -

This was really awesome insight, great post!

#46 Posted by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

@mak_wikus said:

It was my second day in Afghanistan, my Platoon and I were conducting a dismounted patrol down a known Taliban supply route. I heard a snap of a traveling round and saw one of our Afghan Army allies go down. The awesome power of Taliban mortar fire and sporadic machine gun fire was louder and more intimidating than any range I've been on. A lot was on my mind that day, but the whole world stopped for that moment to happen. In my mind, at that moment, nothing else existed. The whole world was this mountain and the entire population was shooting guns. I immediately jumped into a ditch, for my first time “in the shit” was the most disorienting moment of my life.

I want a game, a level, something! based on this paragraph.

I've been waiting for a video game documentary in the Severe Clear style (I also think the start of the more recent Iraq invasion would be action-y enough to support a video game.) I always had thoughts of trying to create a real short mini-game (in the sense that it's really short, not that it's a minigame in the usual sense) if I ever end up on a combat operation after my enlistment/I ever figure out how to make stuff in UDK or what have you.

@R3DT1D3: I don't see the connection between ArmA 3 and PTSD?

#47 Posted by marbleCmoney (451 posts) -

Interesting perspective I don't get to read often. Thanks for writing this.

#48 Edited by mlarrabee (2885 posts) -

A truly fascinating read. Thank you very much for your service and for your willingness to talk openly about the rough--and occasionally horrific, I'm sure--things you endured to serve and protect.

#49 Posted by FoolishChaos (431 posts) -

Great read.

Its a personal pet peeve of mine when one group will try to defend/speak for another group.

#50 Posted by InsidiousTuna (377 posts) -

Great stuff, Steve, and as always, thanks for your service.