As I lay on this shallow patch of earth I remain still and silent. My eyes follow a systematic pattern, as I scan the area left to right. My muscles remain poised, purposeful. The resting finger though relaxed, is fueled and ready, pressed upon the trigger with intent. In the distance there is movement, ruffling among the trees. I prepare my scope and gaze into the dark. Breathing stops, heartbeat slows. After a pause, I squeeze the trigger. One shot is fired. A loud BOOOOM slices through the silence and delivers my resolve. After a well-earned 100 points is added to my score, the fallen soldier returns eager for revenge in a spawn point directly behind me. Great.
The shooter genre is arguably the most dominating presence in the video game market. Gamers seem to harbor an intrinsic fascination with the utilization of vast assortments of weaponry against hordes of enemies in the pursuit of victory. Multiplayer shooters satisfy our basal competitive drive through a medium of seriousness (war) turned into an innocent pastime. While the weapons, situations, and technology present within popular franchises are often factual, there is a certain aesthetic quality of realism nearly always absent.
What if real warfare was like Call of Duty? As video games become more mainstream, more culturally significant, the themes, tones, and boundaries are continually broadening to encompass extremes of both reality and fantasy. In 2012 the video game industry rivals that of music, television and film which allows for the inclusion of world-class writers, directors, and creative minds to solidify gaming as a viable art form. Series such as Call of Duty and Metal of Honor capitalize on this example, boasting the utilization of military experts, combat specialists, and war veterans to deliver an experience exemplified by realism. But how similar can these shooters really get to authentic combat?
Imagine a real life army that employed the various tactics celebrated within the confines of Call of Duty. Though united under a common flag, each soldier would act independently of one another, running about the battle-torn backdrop like rats in a maze. Corners would be rife with campers searching for safe havens, and millions of planes, helicopters, and missiles would cross the landscape, dotting the sky in a haze of destruction. In reality, the scene I’ve described reflects utter chaos. In a multiplayer shooter setting, chaos is commonplace and a whole lot of fun.
Despite possessing the funds, talent, and narrative direction to successfully immerse players into explosive combat situations, there will always be a line that realism cannot cross. Can you imagine embarking on the life or death, emotionally exhausting trials that our armed forces witness every day in the name of entertainment? The notion is not only insulting to the men and women who risk their lives in the armed forces, but it also completely opposes the purpose of a leisure activity. The pursuit of authenticity is a double edged sword. While realism is a notable goal to strive towards, veracity is cruel, sad, and often unenjoyable. Why do you think Saving Private Ryan has never been made into a video game?
Finding the perfect balance between gritty pragmatism and embellished action is an ever changing formula. Killing the bad guys should be a satisfying and rewarding experience, not one that catalyzes a decent into depression. So far, modern shooter franchises have maintained a respectable sense of equilibrium among the facets of violence, gore, and mature themes, but a trend towards even more coldblooded, unaltered realism is clear.
With Black Ops 2 paving a completely new avenue for the series, do you think it will appeal more to a sense of realism or fantasy? Also, in your opinion, how far should video games be able to go in terms of serious subject matter? Would Saving Private Ryan be acceptable as a video game