Saturday, December 08, 2012

Digital Wounds

The Boy wants an XBOX360 for Christmas more than I want to see my bride prancing around the Christmas tree doing the "Barbie Girl" dance dressed in her Star Wars boxer shorts.

So we went to the store today to look over the expensive entertainment and there I ran across this:
I stood beside the cardboard tower where the little plastic box with the crouching GI sat alongside racing games and Pokemon games and Cooking Mama 3: Shop & Chop and a shiver ripped up my back.

Look, I understand that kids have always played at war.

I realize that American kids and English kids (and German kids) put cookpots on their heads and fired broomstick rifles at their friendly "enemies" in 1916 and 1942. Hell, I'm sure Sumerian kids and Prussian kids and Aztec kids did the same. War has been the basis of a hell of a lot of art and music and, yes, entertainment throughout human history.

I'm not sure why this shooter game squicked me out so quickly and thoroughly.

But I think perhaps because this isn't just kids playing at war they don't understand.

Perhaps because this was created and crafted by adults old enough to understand that the digital soldiers the children and young men will be playing at fighting and killing are ghosts of the real living men and women really bleeding and dying in a distant land for opaque and byzantine geopolitical reasons.
I'll be the first to admit my own inconsistency. I have no problem watching or playing with my son the Star Wars shooter Battlefront or the WW2 shooter Call of Duty.

But somehow killing pixels of imaginary stormtroopers or long-vanished landser seems less sickening to me than making a game of what might happen to an Army brother of mine in the high cold hills of a land whose fate means less to me than the most trivial wound that young soldier might receive.

I know it's not logical or sensible but the very notion of playing Heavy Fire Afghanistan makes me vaguely ill.

Update 12/9: On the other hand, THIS is the real deal.

H/t to Leon for directing me to this hilarious spoof. But y'know what? One of the worst parts of "real" war is the gawdawful boredom coupled with the problem that you can't stop paying attention and relax except when you're completely out of contact - and then you often find that there's nothing to do; you've read every goddamn paperback on the FOB, the game system is hogged by a dozen guys from Bravo Company, and it's too fucking hot, or cold, or rainy to play outside even if you feel like it.

Wars just pretty much suck for anyone who isn't commanding brigades, and even then. Wars just pretty much suck, and I just don't see how you could make a first person shooter out of an ongoing war and sleep at night.


Talyssa said...

What the?! I can't believe they would actually make a game like this!! I don't know if it's because these issues are still going on now and by making it a game it kinda takes away from just how serious it is.
I mean I love my consoles I don't really play too many first person shooters etc (except Uncharted but that's mixed genre - super awesome though), but I agree this is completely wrong and disrespectful. People are dying in Afghanistan everyday!!

Anonymous said...

I can't even watch the ads. You know, I wish to hell someone would make a game where there were points for positive things. Like rescue of people from quakes or floods, for doing things that impact without impact CRATERS!

Leon said...

Well Chief, be reassured because someone is making the most realistic FPS ever made:

FDChief said...

Talyssa: Well, A-stan ain't exactly the Battle of the Bulge, but my Army brothers are there, bored to tears, lonely, irritated, scared, pissed off...everything that soldiers have lived through during occupations of Afghanistan since Alexander's day. And it kind of pisses me off to see their lives reduced to a ridiculous game for the entertainment of people whose interest in and understanding of those GIs and what they're doing probably is about as deep as their interest in the NFL or the latest "Girls Gone Wild" video.

Syrbal: Well, there ARE games like that. But let's face it; people who aren't soldiers have been fascinated by soldiers since there WERE soldiers. It's just that the digital age has let us play war in a much more vivid way...

Leon: That's awesome! Note the update. Thanks!

rangeragainstwar said...

Before you allow your spawn to play a war game why not feed him just 1 mre a day. Make him sleep in the rain and cold and do not give him more than 12 sheets of toilet paper per day.Make him pull guard duty and dig a crapper for the BDE CDR before he goes to chow.
Oh yeah, no hot water for showers and his clothes must be unwashed for 2 weeks or more. He must sleep in his gear.
Oh yeah, just for refresher training the old goat should do the same.
I fail to see the difference in playing ww2 or pwot.
Killing is killing whatever the venue or time frame.

FDChief said...

jim: Not even going to argue; you're right as hell. My views towards his shooter games are completely inconsistent and illogical.

I've TOLD him how I feel about these digital wargames, but my actions (not objecting to the make-believe and historical shooters the way I do the modern ones) make a liar out of me.