Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Military Video Games: "The Promise Of Plausible Heroism"

In a thoughtful piece in the NYT, Seth Schiesel makes the point that the new generation of incredibly attractive modern war video games (I confess I'm tempted to get an XBox and start blasting away) are supplying narratives of war and heroism that the wars of the last decade have not given us. MP+

A scene from Battlefield 3.

November 15, 2011
Recruiting the Inner Military Hero in Men

If there were a draft in this country, video games about war probably wouldn’t be so popular. The fantasy would be less appealing if the reality of killing and dying in combat with other human beings were more imminent for more people.

A military draft is now unthinkable in America. And so bullet-spewing first-person shooter games like Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 seem likely to continue to reign among men as the most consistently popular genre in video games. According to game companies and analysts, the expansion of gaming onto social networks (FarmVille, Sims Social) and cellphones (Angry Birds) is largely being propelled by women. But the core console and PC gaming world — where players spend $60 on a product that has cost tens of millions to create — is still mostly driven by the tastes of young and reluctantly middle-aged men.

Despite the public’s political exhaustion after a decade of real war, imaginary war remains as popular as ever. Both Battlefield 3, published by Electronic Arts, and the new Call of Duty, from Activision, will be among the year’s biggest-selling games. In terms of design polish, production values, visual presentation, multiplayer appeal and even such storytelling as there is, they deserve all of their success.

But what makes these games so much fun for so many people in the first place? Of all video games, first-person shooters usually elicit the most confusion, consternation and derision in people who don’t play them.

Trust the marketers to show us the way. The people who make these games know exactly which of their audience’s psychological buttons they are trying to push. The tagline in the commercial Activision has been running during football games and other television programs to promote Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is “There’s a soldier in all of us.” The official trailer has been pulling in about a million hits a day.

Read the whole piece here.

1 comment:

styler said...

With an X-Box looming in the future (don't tell the kids, it's for Christmas), it's a very tempting genre to get (again, when the kids aren't around). But I'm still looking forward to leaving potatoehood behind and taking a boat ride and five mile march into Shiloh this spring.

There are all sorts of people playing these games. Some probably hunt and camp, some are active or reserve grunts. I'd guess the majority are none of that. For those folks, I guess, virtual dirt, cold, and ick, is real enough.

Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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