Sunday, November 08, 2015

Call of Duty: Modern Boredfare

The latest bizarre little sticky-note from the WTF-desk of the Department of Defense was the wholly-unsurprising information that the DoD (or several of its civilian contractors) were paying for various professional sports leagues to give the armed forces a little shout-out. James Fallows has a short summary of the NFL end of the arrangement.
I've become accustomed to the constant tongue-bath the pro sports leagues give the armed services to the point of pretty much tuning the business out. But when my nose is pushed in it it still irks me. No, there is no connection between getting paid to play a kid's game and getting paid to kill people and break shit, and to pretend otherwise is fairly skanky at best and truly loathsome at worst.

That said, I can't find anything near as ridiculous in this whole sports-leagues-military-lovefest as the way the business of killing people and breaking shit looks like in videogames, something I'm very familiar with because I have a 12-year-old son who lives for them.
They're...well, you know what they're like. "Hyperkinetic" doesn't begin to describe them. My most vivid image is The Boy literally bouncing up and down as he works his controller trying to blast the "enemy" pixels while not becoming a mass of "dead" pixels himself. The action so constant and frantic as to be almost a parody of actual armed combat which IS often pretty goddamn frantic (and frightening, exhausting, and often confusing as fuck, but obviously that's hard to convey in a videogame).
(Mind you, back in the day I had the luxury of "combat" - at least the simulated combat that was as close as I came or wanted to come - from several thousand meters away, seeing that artillery's whole purpose is to lend a little tone to what would otherwise be a sordid and vulgar brawl. And, yes, you've seen that Finley cartoon here before; I love the guy's goofy take on the various branches and apparently you can still get your hands on them here. Nice!)
Here's the thing, though.

What irks me more than anything about all this, both the silly purchased patriotism of the sports leagues as well as the hyperactive mayhem of the videogames is that neither one comes anywhere close to the single most distinctive thing about soldiering:


Soldiers, from hoplites to helicopter crews, spend an amazingly huge amount of time doing absolutely, utterly, brain-warpingly nothing. Not a fucking thing except sitting (or standing, or lying) around waiting. Or performing incredibly, mind-numbingly repetitive tasks that would be reviled as insultingly simple-minded by a hamster.

There's a reason that GIs play cards a lot and especially quick games like tonk a lot. Because cards are supremely portable and you can knock out a bunch of rounds of tonk in ten minutes, or play a marathon over a couple of hours. And you can be damn sure that you're going to HAVE those minutes or hours (or days, or weeks) doing fuck-all but wait and play cards.
If I had trouble with my guys, back in the day, it wasn't because of too much excitement or adventure, it was because they were bored out of their skulls and found ways to entertain themselves that weren't exactly what their (and my) chain of command felt were...appropriate (and yes, I'm looking at you, Blackie. NOT cool, man. Not cool.)

So if I were to write code for a first-person military videogame the objective would be for the player to find ways to entertain himself whilst hanging around the motor pool - but not get nailed doing it by the motor sergeant (or, worse, the First Sergeant for some epically awful detail).

I dunno how well it would sell. But it sure as hell would make me happy. Yep, boys and girls; it's ain't flags and cheerleaders and cool camouflage uniforms. That's how it is. That's how we roll. THAT's how it really plays.


Leon said...

Get this for your kid if he want's realism:

FDChief said...

Yes! Thank you! I looked everywhere for this but couldn't find it...this is where I got the idea from. Classic.

Brian Train said...

Damn, Leon beat me to it.