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Do We Have A Moral Obligation To Make War Games With An Anti-War Agenda?
by Nick Halme on 07/11/10 03:20:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


First, watch this Heartsrevolution video set to cuts of Waltz with Bashir.

In other forms of media videogames are often portrayed unjustly, right?  In The Wire we see young gangbangers mindlessly shooting in Halo 2.  In Neuromancer arcades are home to a game called Tank Battle.

I think I take offense because they're portraying videogames pretty well.  In our nascent medium, we're still trying to finish games where all we have to worry about is getting the guns to shoot right and to get the enemies to die correctly.

In the video someone mercilessly fires a model Browning .50 cal at a screen full of targets.  I've been moved to write about this topic before, and I think I need to get it out again.

While we admit we have technical limitations, business limitations, videogames are portrayed as one dimensional because, in the sense that we portray human conflict, they are.  We're like children playing Cowboys and Indians -- the cowboys kill the indians, and vice versa.  That's all.  Move on to the next game.  There are epic Luke Skywalker/Darth Vader combats. 

We have few of the moments Waltz with Bashir has.  We don't feel confliction.  We don't shed any tears for the digital warfighters that die beside us, and we have no reason to feel anything for the digital enemies we murder.  We look at a destroyed city scape and yell "FUCK YEAH!" and then move on to discuss how dynamic our destructible environments are.  We're never left standing at the edge of a burning city feeling remorse.

Some people think the reason is that none of this is fun.  Well guess what, if we want to talk about videogames like they're experiences now then we're not talking about football, we're talking about The Deer Hunter.  We're talking about Black Hawk Down (the real story, not the balls to the wall action flick).

In fact, we take every armed conflict and turn it into the film portrayal of Black Hawk Down.  In the book -- written in fictional prose but composed from interviews with U.S Army Rangers, Delta Force operatives who saw friends get shot in the head, Somali fighters, and recorded radio transmissions and reels of 24/7 colour UAV footage -- there is little to celebrate.  On that day 19 Americans died along with over 3,000 Somalians.  A group of Army Rangers spent an entire day and night fighting an entire city.  It's reported that the militias used all of the ammunition they had stored in the city.

In the film, Americans shoot the fuck out of the bad guys.  You could say it's like a videogame.  It's full of a lot of very cool scenes.

We make cool shit.  Not important shit.


I think there are a lot of obvious reasons - gamers make games for gamers; we don't want to think about real things when we're in our safe place; game companies are scared of having a hard M rating; some people feel uncomfortable modeling virtual worlds full of suffering.

But we should.  Videogames have to do one thing before we make another leap.  We made the leap from Pacman to Modern Warfare 2, and we need to make another leap soon.  I think it needs to be the construction of the most terrifying war game ever made.

Because it's not like we don't have the systems in place to attack this problem if we allowed ourselves to.  How do we make a player feel remorse for killing civilians?  We can do that.  Can we create characters the player cares about?  Yep.  Can we model gore?  Sure thing.  How about creating a mission structure that feels more like the botched battle plan of an armed force?  Hiring good voice talent?  Crafting exposition that makes the player wonder if he's on the right side?  The individual mechanics are there.

But maybe the incentive is not.  We're stuck in an arcane world where we make games for people we're told will buy it.  We don't make games for ourselves.  Screenwriters and directors can make movies for themselves and they sell because they're good stories.  Novelists write for themselves and become bestsellers because of it.  Videogame companies make either versions of games they liked, or games for audiences that people in suits assure them will enjoy it and: profit.

I've said this before, but once I asked the lead designer at a certain studio why they didn't have blood in their game.  The response: we don't make suffering.  He said it in a tone that implied "We are good people, not bad people -- so we will make games without blood."

What I inferred was "We will make a game where you kill men, but not show the suffering.  We make imaginary worlds where the men you kill deserve it, and they don't suffer because that's mean.  Death is PG 13 -- dying is rated R."

Make this game and it will sell millions.  Make David Jaffe's Heartland, and it will sell millions.  Make Six Days in Fallujah and it will sell millions.

In fact here's a section of the Wikipedia page on the cancelled Atomic Games project, Six Days in Fallujah:

"Atomic Games describes Six Days as a survival horror game, but not in the traditional sense. The fear in Six Days does not come from the undead or supernatural, but from the unpredictable, terrifying, and real tactics employed by the insurgents that were scattered throughout Fallujah.  Benito states that 'Many of the insurgents had no intention of leaving the city alive, so their entire mission might be to lie in wait, with a gun trained at a doorway, for days just waiting for a Marine to pop his head in. They went door-to-door clearing houses, and most of the time the houses would be empty. But every now and then, they would encounter a stunningly lethal situation... which, of course, rattled the Marines psychologically.' Gamepro has stated that for Benito, giving players a taste of the horror, fear, and misery experienced by real-life Marines in the battle was a top priority. Benito states 'These are scary places, with scary things happening inside of them. In the game, you're plunging into the unknown, navigating through darkened interiors, and 'surprises' left by the insurgency. In most modern military shooters, the tendency is to turn the volume up to 11 and keep it there. Our game turns it up to 12 at times but we dial it back down, too, so we can establish a cadence.'" 

Why did it get pulled?  The games media played the offense card.  Konami pulled the plug.

Someone needs to take responsibility for a game that means anything to anyone.  To a game that offends everyone by recreating the final scene in The Hurt Locker where the player tries to defuse a ticking suicide bomb, and failure at the task is the point.

Someone needs to make the game where you set fire to a village full of women and children under orders that they were collaborating with insurgents.

Someone needs to make it because they need to prove that doing so will not result in disaster.  They need to prove that a videogame can have balls and disturb people, and that people will enjoy the stimulation just like they do in other forms of media.  We have the invaluable tool of player agency -- we can make players do things.  We need to stop making them play toy soldiers, and start making them play real soldiers.  Real insurgents fighting the Americans to preserve their homeland and way of life.  Real Israelis causing collateral damage.  Real U.N. peacekeepers challenged with remaining passive while genocide is carried out.

They need to do it because someone has to.  We need to nut up and grow up.  And when it's proven that a company can continue business after making that game, more games like it will follow.  Maybe then we can stop recruiting soldiers and start creating protestors. 


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Alex Covic
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What would be accomplished by making a My Lai level in a game, if the kids know no bounderies to experience their shooters like a blow job? It is in the players head - not necessarily in the game - where you can have such an experience?

A game like Modern Warfare 2 delivers all this aspects of 'fun shooting' that makes the kids go crazy. You see blood on the screen that should be yours, but it's exciting instead of frightening? The multiplayer awards you for every single click you make - letting you feel 'accomplished', 'awesome', 'skilled' ... all the things, most of us are not - and most of the kids playing these kind of games endlessly, never will in life?

But EVEN in Modern Warfare 2 you can have a reasonable moment of greatness! Yes, the airport level. Making you play as a good guy who does bad things; breaching the boundary and letting you experience the unimaginable - has the depth of a greek tragedy. Aeschylus 'The Persians' is the most amazing play because it let's you experience the world through the eyes of your enemy. You see yourself through the eyes of someone else, without having to endure the consequences. Only, if you choose to see it this way? Only, if you have more references you can pull from your real life, to do accordingly so; which the majority of the audience does not? And even those, who do - want entertainment - not 'suffering' or lecturing?

Playing vs Reality is that in a nutshell: experience without consequence. Without death or pain. Who endured through Lars Van Triers 'Antichrist'? Who still reads the news about Uganda, Angola, Congo, Sudan?

Most video games are commercial entertainment products for a very specific target group. I repeat what we all know, because there is no way around this fact. This target group of customers does not want disturbance? Does not want 'experiments'? You change a weapon in a game and they cry foul - you take away the 'fun' and they will be disturbed - flee from your 'product'?

The 'immersiveness' of clicking the mouse/button mashing and the immediate response on the screen that suggests the 'biggest thrill' is - unfortunately - not a dialog puzzle, a verbal conflict solved, but rather some virtual human's brains being blown up as juicy as it gets? That's what excites the players brain and testosterone levels of the consumer the most? In that moment, they don't care to think why or who or whatfor?

I started playing ArmA2 recently. It feels anything but a ordinary FPS. I was reminded of my Army training - most of the time running with gear, rifle in hand - checking my squad, checking the environment. Run, stop, look, run, stop, look. Communicating. Giving orders. 'Situational awareness' in this game isn't just a buzz word. The AI is very complex for the whole game; still has hickups. The 'game' feels not 'gamey' but like a military sim. I ran with my AI-squad from one objective to the next - died everytime for a reason. My buddies die b/c I - as a squad leader - made a mistake.

Playing this game with friends (I don't have) would make this experience even more enjoyable and more realistic at the same time. No contradiction. In real life I would very likely be dead before the end of the first mission. That would be a short game.

Playing a 'career' as a kid soldier in a militia army or U.N soldiers raping local civilians, or watching a suicide in front of their eyes (old news) is something very hard to pull off with any game publisher? Gamers - the kind we all are - would enjoy the 'experience' no matter how gruesome the 'material' would be. All ends in just another thrill?

It is pure speculation on my behalf, but the kind of game that you might want to see, is a game that people would put down after 30 minutes of playing - horrified by the intense experience? That is of course every true artists dream - not to 'sell' you something, but to offend and/or disturb you so much, that you are forced to think.

Nick Halme
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I think that we overestimate something we've never tried. There is certainly the suggestion of a macabre game that makes your heart sink, but I think there is also the suggestion of a game that doesn't abandon convention while making your trigger-pull fateful.

Take this scenario: the player fast ropes from a helicopter into a busy metropolitan area that has just been hit by a car bomb. Civilians running every which way. Here and there, "the bad guys" take up positions in plainclothes. Snipers sit behind windowsills above. Your squad comes under fire immediately. You kill a civilian -- the game keeps going. You don't fail, like Rainbow Six. You killed someone, and the game continues, just like our world. You don't have to then enter an interactive cutscene where you click through a dialogue tree as the person delivering the news to the dead person's family. But you watch him scream and die while you take cover from sniper fire behind a car door. That's an atmosphere that something like Call of Duty doesn't shoot for, but something else could.

Maurício Gomes
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I was watching the anime Gunslinger Girl, and something on it was interesting:

You start, seeing mostly the "good guys", the special forces of Italia, killing terrorists without mercy.

Later in the anime, you get to know two bomb makers, that sorta even help with anonymous tips to the police when they think that something is going to far (like when someone hired them to explode a historic monument, and they disagreed... so they delivered the bomb but made the police foil the plot).

Later, one of those bomb makers, attempt to hire a even better bomb maker, only to this even better bomb maker ask: "What are you fighting for? Is it worth? I know that you are fighting the government because the government killed your father, but this will bring peace to you?" After that, she (the bombmaker trying to hire a better one) concluded that the old master was a "coward", and when she was leaving, someone captured her by faking a pregnancy.

One of the cops, started beating her, for no reason than revenge, while beating her he explained that the female cop that faked pregnancy still had shrapnel on her chest from one of the captured terrorist bombs, and that he himself lost one eye. The response was: "We all, have our hatred inside us."

Later the other bombmaker (the partner of the female one) arrived to save her, killed the cops and left a mine in one of the corpses.

It made clear, that in the end, hatred wins, and everyone else loses.

Even later in the anime, a special forces person go meet his cop friend, and he get to know that the mother of his friend died during a riot, hit in the head by a police gas bomb, and he commented that he knew how it was, because his own sister died by terrorists...

Then he was participating in a mission to cut a black market route, after his special ops team kill everyone in a truck loaded with weapons, he open the truck door, and see his cop friend dead inside. He realized that he decided to betray the government when his mother died. And he fought terrorists, and thus killed his friend, because his sister died. And so goes on the cycle.

Games need more stories like this...

raigan burns
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This reminded me of this:

I agree that it's terrifyingly stupid that "bloodless/victimless violence" is somehow considered better/safer content than a more realistic depiction of pain and suffering.

Adam Bishop
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I think this is one of those things where everyone thinks there's no market for it because it's never been tried (as far as I can recall). And yet, when someone *does* try to do something that there's supposedly no market for, it often does quite well. People claim that games that focus on characters rather than action won't sell, and yet Heavy Rain has done quite well for itself. People claim that gamers aren't interested in dialogue, and yet Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age - both of which have huge amounts of dialogue - have sold impressively.

The truth is that with video games, like any form of media, there are all sorts of different markets. Who would have guessed that fitness games were such an untapped market? The key, I think, is to make sure you know who your audience is. If you want to make a serious game that makes players think about war, don't sacrifice your vision to appeal to the Halo/Modern Warfare crowd. Acknowledge what you're doing, and make it for the people who are genuinely interested in that kind of experience. Like Nick, I think that kind of experience could be very successful if it was well done.

E Zachary Knight
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One of the biggest concerns raised about the games industry by those who rail against it is that we create these games with all this violence and do not show the consequences of our in game actions. We have all these war games that allow the player to fight the enemy, but they do not even have a relationship with the people they are fighting with.

We have crime games that do not show real consequences to the player's actions.

I am not sure that we have an obligation to show these consequences as no one does. Yet, I think that we should support those that do. Six Days in Fallujah was looking to be one of the most interesting games of the year and the industry chickened out. We have indie developers making games like this and we ostracize them and consider them second class citizens to the makers of the next blockbuster FPS.

The commercial games industry as a whole is not willing to embrace this part of our potential, mostly because it is not as profitable as other games. That right there is the problem. We are starving out our potential because we are focusing on what will keep more money flowing in.

I am not saying that we can make games that are not profitable, but we can make a greater variety of games.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Joel S
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To respond to Bob,

much work goes into video games, and many people consume the games. Just making a considered effort of how the messages in the game appear can influence the many people. So it is important to think and debate these things. You are right, the violence in videogames debate is as old as the games are - and often misunderstood... which I won't go into here ;)

Personally, I would like to see more meaningful games - at least more considered than many are. The art game and indie game scene is looking quite hopeful these days - I think this is where the change can come from. Big budget games just have too much riding on them to take a chance. Everyone knew MW2 would sell well because everyone knew exactly what it would be like.

David Tarris
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"We have taken it into our heads that to write a poem simply for the poem's sake [...] and to acknowledge such to have been our design, would be to confess ourselves radically wanting in the true poetic dignity and force: — but the simple fact is that would we but permit ourselves to look into our own souls we should immediately there discover that under the sun there neither exists nor can exist any work more thoroughly dignified, more supremely noble, than this very poem, this poem per se, this poem which is a poem and nothing more, this poem written solely for the poem's sake."

- Edgar Allan Poe

The debate between proponents of didactic entertainment and "art for art's sake" has been raging for centuries (particularly in the literary community), and personally, I fall into the latter camp. Games are first and foremost entertainment, and to many they are art as well. But to take that a step further, and suggest that games are under-utilizing their potential by being "confined" to mere entertainment -- and should be used to teach and instruct -- that to me is doing a disservice to the art form.

Using games as a vehicle to push an agenda, even one so seemingly benign as "war is bad", runs the risk of alienating the audience, and detracting from the value of the game itself: the game treated as a game and not a sermon. I don't think there's anything wrong with using a game to foster constructive debates, or maybe make the audience think about something in a new light, but to say "we can stop recruiting soldiers and start creating protestors", well, I don't want anyone joining the army or protesting a war over a game. Who is a game maker to tell someone what to think, when they would rather just enjoy some fun gameplay?

And there's the rub: people should be able to enjoy a game for the game's sake, and not have to worry about someone's agenda being pushed upon them while they do so.

Nick Halme
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Games have messages that players take away whether we put them in there or not. It's not our responsibility to some higher power ot even to consumers -- it's our responsibility to ourselves to stop making *so many* one dimensional flavours of the year. I like Modern Warfare, but I'd also like something better.

I think that's important to note: a game like this, in particular a war game, is not different - it is better. Modern Warfare doesn't have the tools to construct anything but a Bruckheimer tour de force, but if the engine remained and they continued to make single-player content, with the gameplay out of the way, we might have seen something that is more morally confusing come out of that.

Maybe we could get a Modern Warfare story that we remember by the time we're finished it. It would mean an advance in narrative -- part of a war narrative is exposing the violence, not necessarily pasting anti-war or pro-war posters everywhere, but showing consequences and not cutting to rock music when the bomb hits.

Praise is given to games that reach outside the confines of "puzzle A, puzzle B, boss fight" for just a moment -- I see no reason why a game that seeks to be dramatic and accomplishes it would be un-fun and pedantic.

People enjoy good books, good films, but we're still football. Cheer for team A to beat team B, then go have beers. Is it impractical to think we could give people the feeling they had when they walked out of Children of Men?

I think thought experiment is the easiest way of conveying things here -- could someone propose a thought experiment of the supposed failed user experience in a game where, for example, the player must search a village for weapons and only open fire on select targets? I don't see a lot of gameplay conventions that need to be shirked for something like the above to work -- production process and design process, certainly, but it's another layer on top, not a parallel idea.

"Who is a game maker to tell someone what to think, when they would rather just enjoy some fun gameplay?"

Again I'd like a thought experiment as an example -- how do you envision a game maker telling someone how to think? Jin Roh tells a story that seems to imply a person used for killing can't blend back in with society, and he's forced to kill his last connection with normal feelings and life. Does that seem pushy? Or is it amazing? You seem to be arguing that games shouldn't try to do what other media (and even boardgames) have been doing for some time. Even in modern stories that don't suppose to inject rhetoric, they are open to interpretation in a way that usually reflects the author's slant -- the world is a dangerous place, we are our past, etc.

Is the idea of role-playing with Rules of Engagement and their sundering not fun? We don't know yet.

Are military shooters confined forever to being gun porn? Have we built an audience that can't imagine anything else by saturating the market and drinking our own kool-aid?

Nick Halme
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Yes, but why are videogames the one form of media that seems to not be allowed to do this?

Duong Nguyen
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The industry isn't ready yet. Movies get away with it because they have a more centralized model of development so you can pin the "blame" if you will onto the director, games don't yet have such strong central figures, there are a few exceptions. 6 Days is the perfect example, since games have no strong centralized personifying force, the publisher becomes that personifying force for most people. So if the game bombs or offends alot of people, the Konami brand would be hurt, as long as that dynamics exist I suspect large publishers will never fund "edgy" products with any social message, but developers do sneak in a few anyways.

This is also a limiting factor upon the games creativity and vision in general. Look at how many genres and themes games borrow from science fiction, horror, fantasy movies and books, yet what new ideas have games really imparted to those genres, the fear of offense and the aspiration that games be "shallow" prevents them from rising to great heights as a social medium?

Nick Halme
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Directors are not the thing you think they are.

marty howe
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Hi Nick, I think it's just a matter of our industry not being mature enough yet. Cinema and literature has had an astronomical head-start. Theres also the obvious business element with publishers naturally not wishing to undertake such risky subject matter etc.

As developers, we can still weave in edgy subject matter for people to find (if they want to) whilst still delivering viable entertainment to a worldwide audience. Isn't that a good compromise?

Joseph McDevitt
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marty whats the deal with your fake business? ACN not real, company name not real?

i think for someone who is a complete wannabe, talking about maturity is a bit rich dont you think?

Duong Nguyen
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I know directors are just a creative figure head and much of the work is done by skilled professionals under them, but really to the public they are the personified creator of a movie and it's they who receive the praise or blame for its message. When people rag/praise a movie like say Fahrenheit 9/11 (by Michael Moore) they won't blame Lions Gate (the distributor), they blame/praise Moore.

Take games, like 6 Days, when they rag/praise if (if it was ever released) they won't blame just Destineer but also Konami and associate the message (if there is one) of 6 Days too both Destineer and Konami, which is unfair since Konami had no direct say in the message. If say games were like movies and 6 Days was released but it was "6 Days in Fallujah a Joe Bob game, the acclaimed director of other games like ...", to the public that personifies it. Until that happens, publishers won't risk associating a message with their brand, not directly under their control.

David Sattar
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Interesting post Nick. There's a game that addresses many of your concerns I think - Far Cry 2.

*** Please note - some spoliers follow below. ***

It's a shooter and the basic premise is that you take on various types of mission. What is generally talked about in this game is the jaw droppingly beautiful rendering of the African terrain, both the wide open savannah, rocky hills and forest, along with the weather and the ability to choose precisely what time of day or night to engage a target.

What you slowly come to realise though is that pretty much *everything* you do is at best morally ambigious. You play a Mercenary. There is no way to avoid that base game reality. As you carry out missions you gradually come to realise that you are deliberately participating in the dismemberment of a nation state for your profit & survival and other's grabs for power and profit. The game offers no option to choose a higher moral ground, or to attempt to salvage something from the chaos.

About the least morally ambiguous missions involve delivering passports to refugees fleeing the fighting. Sounds good and charitable and all, but where did the passports come from ? Had to have been forged or stolen.

the next least objectionably mission type is intercepting convoys of arms smugglers and killing them of course. On the other hand though, the person giving you the mission is himself an arms dealer who simply wants to eliminate his competition...

Other missions are one of the usual staples of the 'shooter' genre, assasinations. But of who ? The original elected President of the country, or the leader of the uprising against the corrupt and oppressive regime. Neither choice is clearly 'good'. And your payment - conflict diamonds, with which you can buy better weapons. Other missions involve destruction of a township's water supply and destroying the irrigation system for a cultivated area that supplies the country's only source of medicinal plants used in the pharmecuticals industry - one of the few legal foreign currency generating sucess stories in the country.

What you're participating in is actually quite horiffic if you step back and think on it for a moment.

You can of course play the game entirely unaware of all this - it is a fabulouly well executed shooter after all, and jaw droppingly beautifully, as you'd expect from Studio Crytek, but if you look a little deeper you realise that the game is hammering you into a nightmare creature of unrelenting violence with absolutely zero option to choose otherwise. You can't help but think that this is exactly the life experience of someone trapped in such an environment.

The game doesn't beat you over the head with this, and I suppose it's possible to play it through entirely unaware of the context, but if you look around at all, it's all there.

>> Dave Sattar <<

Eric Carr
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It's not impossible. The trick is that since games are an interactive media, they have to be enjoyable. A movie progresses without the involvement of the viewer, a game requires input. But then, how do you expose a player to things that would be questionable, or make them feel uneasy without making them stop playing (via making the experience no longer enjoyable)? Or worse, have the player just assume that the violence and the consequences onscreen are only for shock value (by making the violence fun)?

As a thought experiment, maybe it could work, provided that you changed the context of the game in some way. Find a way to make the core mechanics enjoyable somehow, but turn the meaning somehow.

Nick Halme
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The relationship between the human eye and the brain are tenuous, and relies on computation. We receive images upside down and rely heavily on interpretation of casting light to read depth and colour; our brain takes the two upside down images and processes them into a simulacrum so that we can have visual perception at all. The brain compensates for the way the eyes work, and there is no special line of code that tells the brain "these moving images are fake ones".

That said, we have a very hard time distinguishing between "reality" and images moving in front of us -- it's not especially hard to trick the brain into thinking it's somewhere else (hence why people cry in movies, but more rarely in videogames -- or if they do, it's during a cutscene -- I think it's easier to be immersed if you're looking at images of real people). Of course bad filmmaking can make it easy, but considering benchmarks in that field, I think it's very hard to find a study that can definitively tell us whether videogames or movies are "more immersive". I remember from heresay a study that stated movies were actually more immersive (as they require investment in the actions and people on-screen for an hour, whereas few people think of themselves as Niko Bellic -- they are aware of themselves pretending to be Niko Bellic), but as I can't find it again, who can say.

I think there is an incredible misuse of the word fun. I think what we mean when we say "fun" is "satisfaction". When a player jumps and slices in Ninja Gaiden, it is more apt to say it feels satisfying -- fun is a very floaty blanket definition. Why is it fun to slice people in half? That sounds kind of sadistic. But maybe satisfying works. It feels "correct". When light punches feel quick and heavy kicks feel meaty, they produce satisfaction, not fun. Besides, I think the satisfying core for this kind of game is already there; Call of Duty helped lay the groundwork. We're good at the gun part -- I'm proposing that someday, we should tackle the human holding the gun part.

It's then a bit of obfuscation to say that a videogame (and I've been specifically talking about a "war is hell" game) can't *ever* challenge the status quo because the result wouldn't be fun. If you could present a thought experiment (an example scenario in an FPS, for instance) using some of the suggested mechanics (say, civilian death, enemy suffering states, the ability to comply or negate mission objectives with in-game results, etc) then it might be easier to discuss.

Of course this is different from @ddnguyen 278's assertion which may hold some water -- game publishers don't want to sully their names. I think we're thinking a bit too short term here though -- it can't be long before an up and coming publisher takes up this sort of cause to get it's name out, good or bad. It's unfortunate that videogames are thought of as mindless entertainment (ironically, the name of my old student development group), because when I move on into my forties, I'm not sure I'll still be satisfied with jumping Mario over Goomba's as my only choice for "entertainment". As if entertainment means exclusively diversionary. Macbeth was entertainment, no?

It would be interesting to see some sort of prediction from an analyst on something like design trend (rather than just console cycles) if it were possible with the right data.

@David Sattar

Yeah, I played through about half of Far Cry 2. They did a decent job with the supporting characters (I actually wrote about the death of one in first person
s_a_Plan__A_User_Story.php) but I felt the game was very plastic in the sense that there were no civilians, and no houses. It was an Africa full of mercenaries, not an Africa full of villages being pillaged by men with guns. It was actually maybe a little offensive to see the troubles in Africa so whitewashed and clean -- I think as per the missions, there were more morally challenging quests in Fallout.

@marty howe

Sure. It seems to be the thinking that...maybe I'm whining that war games are not like this. Maybe a little bit. I mean, I like mindless shooters. I don't even want them to go away. But what I'm doing is suggesting that this is a place we could go. Certainly twenty years hence, this might not seem like such a big suggestion. It's not like people aren't sneaking meaningful content into their games already, but that's not what the games are about. We're still spending all our time recreating the wheel on every project (let's develop locomotion in a new engine, shooting, jumping, etc). But given time, something *I* would like to see, are games that have some heart (facilitated by stronger objective and narrative systems...and perhaps better writing) -- games that could stand aside films or novels with mature content. Right now mature content in games means nudity, drug references, blood.

Nick Halme
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@Bill Boggess

Why did Hurt Locker get made? The Pianist? Both are periods and places people are interested in. You're misunderstanding "We make cool shit. Not important shit" -- if you interpret that as "important things are not commercially viable". Hurt Locker wasn't as commercially viable as Avatar; they barely turned a profit. Now look at Avatar. Even though elements of that movie were Camerons' babies, it was a dog and pony show.

Games are different though. Is Call of Duty with a more impactful mission structure somehow too artsy to sell? Are people flocking to Call of Duty because of the core combat of shooting, or because of the lack of serious plot? I really don't think it can be anything else but the former. You're arguing that adding storytelling depth (which in the supposed war game, involves more human depictions of combatants, which we'll assume is an anti-war agenda) will actually hurt such a game. Again, you're supposing a phantom game; give me an example level as compared to an existing Call of Duty level -- I think you'll find the supposed type of level is hardly less action packed. Was Generation Kill boring?

I mean, I understand this is a business. But when a film like Hurt Locker just covers its costs, it allowed its creators to get paid and work at a job they love. When Modern Warfare 2 made a lot of cash, where did it go? To fund new games? Nope. It went into pockets. Don't act like the Activisions are the only people with money calling shots in this industry -- just because they prefer to make games with huge profit margins doesn't mean that some people don't believe making something interesting will sell just enough to stay in business.

I'm a bit confused by the idea that a "deeper meditation on the reality of war" suggests a more passive experience. Dialogue trees don't immerse the player in violence. Violence does. People like violence. Just spend the time and money making the wrapper around the violence responsibly intricate.

I think you're over-complicating the idea of meaningful mission structure and of new narrative devices, which are at the core of this. Not everything has to be a linked causal simulation of reality to impart reality. Band of Brothers was shot in a wharehouse, but still managed to be great (if slightly jingoistic...)

Just look at how the first Ranger section plays in Modern Warfare 2. You roll into a city on the back a humvee, and man, you get the slightest glimpse of what the game could have been about. You see armed militia but aren't give the ability to attack them. Citizens scurry by. Then you enter a cutscene and are ejected from the humvee, pick up some weapons to dual wield and run up some stairs to shoot guys.

Huh? The atmosphere here is an action flick. What I'm saying is, in this genre, Michael Bay is the only man in town. I have a problem with that, and it's a legitimate one. I like explosions as much as the next guy, but I'll be damned if I'll be told someone has to be an "auteur" to craft a game that isn't showcasing Rambo slitting throats. It's not THAT much of a stretch. Really. Spec Ops The Line might even approach something more with their "your squadmates get crazier as the game goes on" narrative mechanic. I'm not alone in wanting something more involved. Hell, if I can't get The Pianist, I'll take a Platoon for now, at least.

You know, I'm always surprised by the response from some people. It's as if the people who want to bend the backs of developers for cash flow don't even have to put in any work to humble the developers -- they're already consigned to produce consumer products that make someone else more money.

Bart Stewart
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Let's suppose someone made the kind of game advocated here, in which every kind of unspeakable atrocity is perpetrated by armed men as an inherent property of "war." In fact, let's stipulate that it really does a good job of allowing the player to participate interactively in committing the worst horrors of all-out war: torture and butchery of civilians, spilled intestines, animals picking at entrails, disease, famine, the whole nine yards.

What's more likely -- that this would enlighten many people, helping in a small way to accomplish the stated goal of awakening us all to the fact that war is undesirable?

Or that some mom would discover her twelve-year-old son enthusiastically playing this "game" and bring it to the attention of our thoughtful, informed, and completely apolitical legislators?

I'm actually not opposed to "message" games (although I agree that it's very difficult to make a game that's both fun and that capably performs moral instruction). Within established legal limits (i.e., no pornography, slander, etc.), I support developers making the games that say the things they want to say. If they can find a publisher willing to expose such games to the public, that's fine, too. And that goes equally for games from whatever political perspective, whether it's zero-sum "save the planet" leftism or "be nice to us or we will export democracy to you" neoconservatism.

But I do think that the specific idea of trying to dramatize "war is bad" through allowing players to interactively participate in the bloodiest evils that armed force is capable of committing is not a good approach. It fails to distinguish between limited force applied for just ends and brute force applied for evil (and there is a real difference); it presumes that revulsion will trump titillation (which is not a safe bet these days); and it ignores the real possibility that only its most gratuitous externals will be seen, allowing it to be used unfairly to brand the computer game industry as wanting to sell nothing but murder simulators and interactive torture-porn.

If there's a "good" way to sell an anti-war message through interactive entertainment, it will probably come from character-driven story, not gory gameplay. There'll still be the need to dramatize the violence of war, but I believe that doing so directly through the player is more likely to distort the intended message than to effectively communicate it.

Nick Halme
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I think a hard M is implied. You wouldn't be comfortable with your 12 year old reading Watchmen, would you? Yet, strangely enough, I watched Saving Private Ryan when I was about 12.

"It fails to distinguish between limited force applied for just ends and brute force applied for evil (and there is a real difference)"

That's up to the developer. Personally, I think that's a trite thing to say -- which side gets to say they're the one using limited force for good?

And as well, revulsion through gore is really missing the point. Suffering != gore.

Gore expanded beyond the blood and dismemberment we have now might not even accomplish anything -- it might not even gross out a jaded twelve year old. To have someone have a leg torn off by a landmine isn't a new thing to display, but to show him still living afterwards is -- it's a revulsion produced not by the syrupy fake blood, but by the idea that this entity is in pain.

The point is, and it's great nobody has taken a shot at a thought experiment (or user story if you will), but tell me how this seems like not an evolution:

August 8, 1996. You're a Russian soldier on foot preparing to enter Grozny as part of an armoured counter-attack force. The force slowly wheels its way into the city; your objective is to reach seven blips on the map -- this is where Russian forces have been pinned down by Chechen guerillas. As the end of the column enters the city, light machineguns open up from building windows -- an RPG is fired from street level at the tank you're standing next to, and you go down, shell-shocked.

A Russian soldier picks you up during the cinematic, hands you back your gun, and pushes you. Ahead of you, you see other young Russian men diving into prone positions behind the rubble in the street. You do so and begin to suppress targets as the column starts rolling again. You still need to get those seven objectives.

Now, let's not confine this to history -- let's say it continues fairly conventionally in that the player is able to succeed at all these objectives; this is just a specific example of an urban conflict that I'm sort of familiar with. Upon reaching the first objective, battered, the column stops. The young soldiers stop to light up cigarettes, some walking around and some sitting on the LAVs. It's clearly very cold, and they're very tired. As they stop they see in the distance a man pinning another man's head to the pavement with his boot. The man on the ground is wearing army fatigues - the man above him has a heavy beard, but is roughly the same age. He slits the boy's throat and runs to cover.

The Russian force mobilizes and the player is party to a standoff. An objective flashes on-screen: save the boy. The boy is still alive, but is dying slowly. Another objective flashes on-screen: flank the Chechens. Going for the boy is clearly harder, as it is a trap -- but it is possible. It is also clear that your AI buddies are already starting to flank, expecting you to move with them.

Now let's stop there and compare this to The Bog level in Modern Warfare 1.

A helicopter crashes. You are part of a night fighting group of Americans -- you trace infrared lasersights to enemies who begin to open fire. Looks pretty cool. You run close to the building and one of your friends is attacked; you shoot the enemy. That was close. Running up the stairs a man with an RPG appears -- you shoot him.

You proceed to be told to destroy a convoy of tanks. You kill maybe twenty men and then destroy the convoy with a wire-guided rocket launcher.

You segue to a scene where a tank is stuck. You protect it.

Now, this is hardly bad. This is very good core gameplay wrapped in context.

What's missing is not some character-driven RPG. You don't need to know who the Russian boy is when he bleeds out on the street. It's the fact that you're not executing a door breach while someone screams "Let the bodies hit the floor!" behind heavy gut-wrenching guitar.

What I'm trying to say is "Someone, sooner rather than later, can do better than this, and this is how I think they will, or should, do it."

Something like depiction of war *should*, really should, have an objective system rugged enough to handle something that feels like a real progression of events, with some choice.

David Tarris
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“I see no reason why a game that seeks to be dramatic and accomplishes it would be un-fun and pedantic.”

You seem to have missed my point when I said: “I don't think there's anything wrong with using a game to foster constructive debates, or maybe make the audience think about something in a new light”. Some of my favorite games were deeply philosophical (e.g., Deus Ex). What made that game different from what you’re suggesting is that it didn’t attempt to “recruit soldiers” or “create protestors”. Instead, it made you stop and think about the consequences of technology and globalization, the sustainability of democracy and republicanism, and even what it means to be human. Lots of people argued about lots of things, but for all the many questions, there were never any answers.

“You seem to be arguing that games shouldn't try to do what other media (and even boardgames) have been doing for some time. “

The quotation I included in my original response was in regards to the growing movement of didactic literature during Poe’s time. I used it to illustrate the point that not only have people been using this “moral crusading” tactic in entertainment media for centuries, but that it has been annoying people for just as long. You can’t justify bad behavior with bad behavior, and I have little respect for any book, movie, or song that supposes to tell me how to think. Back before Shakespeare’s time, for instance, plays were predominately meant to instruct in the church’s teachings through exhilarating combat and romance, but in today’s world more than a few people (perhaps even yourself) would have a problem if Call of Duty ended with Jesus coming down from the heavens and saving the day in a veritable dues ex machina. So why is your intention to do the same with an anti-war moral any different?

“Games have messages that players take away whether we put them in there or not.”

I once had a literary professor who, when asked how to properly go about incorporating moral and theme into a piece of fiction, responded by saying that you shouldn’t go about it at all. Her point was not that stories should be devoid of any meaning or character, but that the theme will come out naturally from writing simply because you are who you are. We, as humans, have inherent biases that permeate every aspect of our lives, and it would be wrong to shy away from them. But we’re not talking about trying to scrub away any hint of personality you, as a writer, impress onto your fiction. We’re talking about going out of our way to pummel the audience with a particular message they’re just supposed to see and accept. Your article seems to suggest to me that it’s not about fostering thought or discussion, but about teaching and lecturing. There’s a big difference there.

“Jin Roh tells a story that seems to imply a person used for killing can't blend back in with society, and he's forced to kill his last connection with normal feelings and life. Does that seem pushy? Or is it amazing?”

There’s a fine line, for sure. But the thing to keep in mind is that if your audience ultimately ends up feeling that their enjoyment of the game was hampered by your attempt to “instruct” them, then you did something wrong. No one should have to walk away from such a great game as Modern Warfare – or any other acclaimed title – with a sour taste in their mouth, because it appeared to be preaching to them about something they didn’t want to hear. I’m all for people being educated and informed, just not indoctrinated.

Nick Halme
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Deus Ex, if anything, supports my point. What's the opposite of a rightist agenda that strives to paint the good guys as Us and the bad guys as Them? Maybe a game that makes you question the authority of your government, think about worldwide shadow governments and self-inflicted terrorist incidents that pit brother against brother? All of the people I know who consider themselves "Deus Ex fans" are decidedly anti-war; whether Deux Ex had any influence on that or not, it certainly jived with their values.

When I say moral responsibility, I'm not implying subversive rhetoric. I asked the question to, well, spark comments like this -- but the point is by not increasing the granularity of, specifically, the wars we are creating, we are slanted towards jinogism whether we want to be or not. When I kill twenty people just because they were being spawned until I moved to the next invisible seems to be telling me that war is two sides shooting at one another. Like I said, that's very Cowboys and Indians.

"You can’t justify bad behavior with bad behavior, and I have little respect for any book, movie, or song that supposes to tell me how to think."

Every book you read tells you how to think by presenting the writer's point of view and making that agreeable and sensible. Coupland's novels are spiraling, absurd stories that seem to have no point. But really they're saying "Look at this fucking plastic culture we live in, and look at the bullshit jobs we work while we try to kill ourselves softly with drugs and comfort ourselves with damaging fetishes -- in the end we just need someone to love". To say that it doesn't say anything is to say that, while it's open to interpretation, nothing moved the writer to start writing, because he doesn't have anything to say.

Eight Lives Down is an autobiography of a British bomb tech's two months in (I believe) Sadr City, defusing bombs made by a top Shia bomb network and running a forensics case to track them down. He did this with a price on his head in the most dangerous city in the world. As a soldier's autobiography, it has no agenda. It is very accurate though. In an ambush he watches a man step out and fire an RPG too close to their truck (RPGs need a certain time in-air for the warhead to arm) and be shot to death by his friends while the shell bounced away. He shot a man in the head as he sprayed bullets at them, all of them missing. This guy loves the hell out of his job and could never do anything else (he served in Ireland previously and South America afterwards), but he paints a picture that involves helicopter crews being burned alive on the tarmac trying to fly missions in too-hot weather. I would hope, like a player playing a well-constructed game concerning Vietnam, that the effect is this: the tone is neutral, but the voice is describing wanton death and hate -- it isn't preaching anything in being frank about the effects of war; it isn't supporting either side.

The idea of an "anti-war" agenda involves no propaganda whatsoever, but a step forward in the way we handle development of all of the areas on top of running and shooting in war games. America's Army makes sure that regardless of your team, you're always a U.S. Army Ranger and the enemy is always an indigenous OpFor. That is subversive. To "expose war" rather than sugar coat it can hardly be described as forcing an opinion down someone's throat, because it's not an opinion. It's just certainly not Charlie Don't Surf (, set to rock music and laconic radio chatter followed by kicking down a door and killing evil armed men shouting in Arabic in a city devoid of people.

If we don't catch up with other forms of media in how we treat violence, well, we won't. That's why it's a responsibility, not a mandate. But if we do, then I have a really great game to play before I die.

Brad Borne
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Guess I just always thought of cartoon violence as a physical form of sarcasm, and violence itself, in less extreme doses, as a punishing stimulus. Don't know why anyone should have a moral obligation to push someone else's agenda, though.

Nothing is black and white. Not sure how you can believe that anti-war agenda isn't propaganda, though I guess it's pretty easy to think that your view is the only correct one when such a force is protecting your right to those beliefs with nothing more than an echo chamber around you.

Nick Halme
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I disagree, prepare to go to war, sir.

Amir Sharar
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I'm against pushing agendas of any sort and so the "anti-war" game idea irks me, but I do have to say that many games are effectively glorifying war at the moment, and so they can't be considered neutral at all.

I don't think the proper reaction is to do the opposite, by creating an "anti-war" game, but rather creating a game that is more holistic. That is to say, a game that points out certain realities of war that isn't pointed out by current games. Not only in regards to civilian deaths, but also in regards to how the command structures work, and how soldiers are trained to follow orders more-so than being trained in decision making.

Though I have to say Nick, from reading your article it seems that you are pushing for this holistic representation, rather than strictly "anti-war".

I do have some issues with that term as well.

First off, war is sometimes a necessity. Being "anti-war" would be naive.

Secondly, the biggest evil is not necessarily war, but modern warfare. While we see many instances of ethnic cleansing and genocide prior to the Industrial Revolution, we see many cases where battles were fought in an "honourable" fashion that didn't result in civilian deaths. With modern warfare weaponry and tactics, we are seeing man made humanitarian crisis after crisis. I'm not only talking about civilian deaths from collateral damage and those who are permanently injured from modern warfare, but those who are displaced as a result may have died while trying to relocate. Either from harsh weather conditions, lack of shelter, or malnutrition.

By any metric it's the concept of "modern warfare" that is unacceptable, and not necessarily the concept of "war". Maybe I'm just arguing semantics, but I'm the sort of guy who likes to clearly define terms before discussing a topic and I think in this case it is helpful.

And I also think such a distinction will make the issue less black and white. There are those that are against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it has nothing to do with supporting the "other" side, but rather how these wars are and have been carried out. It not only has to do with how our UAVs are hitting villages and killing innocent people, but also with how our soldiers are dying simply by driving over an IED.

Any neutral person can see that modern warfare could be improved upon to better realize our objectives. No matter if you are for or against the wars, you can agree that what is occurring right now (and for the last 10 years) isn't working.

I apologize for any poor grammar or maybe even missing your point Nick, I didn't get much sleep last night. :P

Amir Sharar
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If you haven't already Nick, I'd suggest watching the movie "Grave of the Fireflies" which has been considered by some to be an anti-war movie, yet it doesn't speak much about the dynamics and reasons for the war in and of itself. It simply demonstrates the reality of modern warfare tactics and how it affects people. It is not preachy at all, and in fact I've never considered it "anti-war" myself.

But it does open people's eyes to a part of the conflict they rarely see. After all, it's never the losers that write history.

John Trauger
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Anybody wants to make a game that shows the consequences of rampant destruction, be my guest. diversity is a good thing

But if we're talking about trying to normalize anti-war and push it broadly onto games, forget it. Diversity is still a good thing.

I shouldn't need to remind everybody here that people play different games for different reasons. sometimes I just want to blow stuff up. Sometimes I just want a power fantasy. Sometimes I want relief from reality. You try to bring "reality", "the human condition" or "consequences to actions" into a game I play for escapism, I will probably not buy it unless you slip it in under my radar like Bioshock did. That requires a degree of subtlty that isn't easy to pull off.

There is no more annoying moment in a film than when it gets preachy. Avatar, for example, was one long eco-sermon mixed with a healthy dose of white guilt, complete with shallow, off-the-shelf characters doing the predictable, shallow generic things they do to turn the story crank to its conclusion. (but executed with stunning CGI). The game industry has enough of this as it is.

Alternately compare the first matrix movie with the second two. The first succeeded *because* I could ignore the subtexts and exposition and watch a power fnatasy. The second two, you're just praying for Morpheus to shut up.

Perosnally, I'd love to make a realistic strategy game where militants and terrorists are among the choices I give the player. I'd love to explore when and why a government would consider supporting those kind of people. It's the same sort of thing. There ought to be room for games like that, but let's not guilt everybody into doing it.

Micah Wright
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I find it comical that so many commenters here rail against including "personal political beliefs" and decry "inserting politics" into military-themed games by which they mean including some sort of "anti-war" message. Again and again, designers resist the very concept of making a game where the actual horrors of war are treated realistically. I find this resistance to an anti-war "political message" hypocritical because every single military shooter on the market already presents a political message, and that message is unilaterally, unequivocally Pro-War. The fact that you are completely blind to the pro-war message already present in games says a lot about the mindset of the average American.

In these games, War is presented as a universal solution to any and all problems. Combat opponents are always painted in a black-and-white fashion (which works in a WWII game, but otherwise is a massive simplification). Most FPS shooters completely whitewash the moral relativism of real-world conflicts -- what was the last game with Islamic terrorists which mentioned ANY of the real reasons why these people hate America? What was the last game with Al Qaeda enemies which happened to mention the fact that the CIA -created- Al Qaeda back in the 1980's as a weapon against the Soviet Union? The CIA has a word for this kind of unpleasant surprise: "Blowback." Blowback is a concept completely lacking in our military games.

In our military games, technology is painted as "awesome" -- it's FUN to fly overhead on the battlefield in Modern Warfare pushing buttons and decimating a town from a C-130 Hercules. The IR explosions are awesome! Modern drone aircraft have killed so many innocent Afghanis and Pakistanis that they have turned the local populations against our troops in Afghanistan, and yet in our games they're never presented with confusing or mistakable civilian targets, further promoting the fiction that our advanced electronic warfighting is completely civilian-casualty-free.

America is always painted as being constantly under attack from a hostile world. Modern Warfare 2 is laughable in its naivete... the USA spends 3x as much on its military as the world's next 17 biggest militaries put together. The Russians could no more invade America than America could invade the planet of Pluto, and yet in videogames, that preposterous situation is treated as completely realistic. THQ's upcoming Homefront game posits an invasion of the USA by a (highly unlikely) unified North and South Korea... a theoretical country which would still only have 1/4 the population of the United States. Maybe they cloned themselves? Last year North and South Korea combined spent a whopping $30 Billion on their combined militaries... versus the $900+ Billion that the US did. This paranoid meme in games where America is the embattled lone defender of freedom IS a political message, and yet it's put forth in game after game as if we're just stating empirical, message-free fact, and to merely question such a message is to make things "political."

The fact is that the US has the biggest military on Earth by a long shot. Our military is routinely used as a instrument of transnational corporations and to preserve American political and military supremacy in the world under the guise of protecting ourselves. The Pentagon has a public relations department which employs 20,000 people, and their job is to sell the concept that the US Military only invades other countries in order to liberate their populations. Every time we blindly include that message in our games, we ARE inserting "personal political beliefs" into games... it's just that those beliefs are pro-militarism and pro-war.

It's sad, but not uncommon that games seems unable to present the opposite viewpoint... as (minorly) successful as "The Hurt Locker" was, it only got made because it was shot on a shoestring budget... compare that to the free use of military equipment that any film with a pro-military message gets. A film like Top Gun contains scenes which would cost tens of millions to film if one was forced to rent the equipment, but the Pentagon provides men, machines and mock battles for free so long as the US military is shown solely in a positive light. We've seen this flood of Pentagon money into games, as well, with the military directly funding such games as Full Spectrum Warrior (developed by the US Army funded Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California) and the ongoing "America's Army" series of games. This funding, while innocent seeming at first, will only preclude any "anti-war" message from creeping into ANY game... what Publisher is going to distribute an anti-war game if it means that they and their developers are cut off from that flow of Pentagon development money? Especially in an economy like this one where development money is so tight to begin with?

The message in games is Pro-War, Pro-Military, Pro-Pentagon, and Pro-American Political Hegemony... we'll not see an anti-war game anytime soon, but we likewise shouldn't fool ourselves that the games we're making right now are absent of any politics.

John Trauger
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...and wrapping all those wonderful political ideas of into a game of your will almost assuredly make for an uninteresting dog of a product.

You can't find a stable marital relationship on TV. The "message" is that marrriage sucks and nobody is true. The real moral of the story is don't look to The Tube for your life-views. TV is all about conflict and its resolution. A stable, heathy relationship isn't interesting until and unless it is being put through the fire.

Games are the same way with violence and war as TV is with relationships. The sort of games we're talking about are about power and wish fulfillment: Putting the gamer in extreme situations they would never encounter in reality and wouldn't survive if they did. Extreme situations are often resolved extremely and *need* to be resolved entertainingly in order to sell the game. A simple and effective way of doing this is high ROF and bodycount. That's why FPS games are common enough to be a *genre* of game.

I'm disappointed that 6 Days was pulled. I absolutely think there a place for such a game out in the market. Make the point about the realities of war to anybody who cares to play the games. Wasn't one of John wayne's last films ("The Sshootist", IIRC) made to make the same point, only about the West?

Where I draw the line is attempting to impose ideological comformity on the industry, which is really what we're debating here. You, Micah, are telling me I shouldn't be free to make a garden-variety FPS game, or I should feel guilty about it if I do. All because I am presnting a skewed view of war. Imposing ideological conformity is censorship. You're already free to preach anti-war in your game. You want to force me to preach anti-war in mine. To which the proper answer is "Nuts."

I consider concerns about skewed presentation of war in games about as relevant as farmers complaining that Farmville gives players a skewed view of farming. It's. A. Game. Of *course* it does. I rather think that most people can distinguish between reality and games, which should include undestanding that you don't draw your worldview about real war from playing Doom or THQ's latest magnum opus.

If you preach anti-war at at them with less class than Bioshock preached the morality of personal choices, they'll roll their eyes and take the game back to Gamestop. Or more likley hear about the sermonizing in advance and never buy.

Sean Maples
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There is no moral obligation to make war games with an anti war agenda. A war game is always going to be pro war, as the player interaction is war based, and that interaction is fun (if its not good luck selling the game). The moral obligation should be to not always be making war games and put some non killing oriented games out there.

At the core of any war game, is the satisfaction and fun of hitting your target and seeing it devastated. If the game constantly tries to penalize the player for having the fun of shooting or attacking then the player will quit. If you try and use animated blood and gore to shock the player they will just get desensitized to it; or more likely really enjoy it. "Rofl I just pwnt you so hard your entrails are all over your shoes biotch!"

A true anti war game would require finding an interaction the player can constantly be doing that is both fun and non violent. Shooting does not work as it is an act of war and therefore should not be in a game that is anti war. I suppose you can have the player shoot animals, but that just opens up another discussion on the morality of slaughtering animals.

Creating an anti war war game is just going to end up either failing to be anti war or failing to be fun. Either way it wont help anything.

Daniel Green
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I read this and am truly amazed that there are such intellectual individuals in the industry as I had thought that apart from the canned 6 Days ourindustry was devoid of anything but an entertaining experience.

I found all of thereplies here thoughtful, involved and unique. The Gamasutra site is a welcome forum and truly stands out as my new favourite tech site.

One thingthat hasn't been mentioned butwas touched on is the intensity such a gamewould bring.

Now we've all sat through a movie for3 hours that made us uncomfortable or perhaps did not even enjoy. But games aren't two hours.

Rather even a small game contains a minimum 10hours of play (or replay sometimes)

Were such a game seriously developed the problem that would be encountered is a problem that the producers can't reallyhelp with.

That is the impact. Every person is an individual and someare moreaffected by others especially in wars.

Idworry about the long term psychological impact on even a fully functioning adult of tens of hours of play in which the real life consequuences are as real as possible.

I'm a more or less balanced individual for example. Maybe more sensitive than some to the tragedies of war and such. However I am one of the previously mentioned individuals that still watches and listens to news about Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan the middle east and many other countries. The wars themselves don't interest me. They are all fundamentally the same.

Instead I watch the plight of others and feel forthem. What if that person was me? Or my best friend? Or my sister? Or my mum?

I'd certainly play the sort of game we are talking about, but how real do we want it to be? What kind of censorship do we need in the packaging?

Final thought: Maybe a vitality sensorcould have a place in the games industry if this were released. Itcould sense the stress levels in an individual and adjust various elements of gameplay so as not to traumatised an individual.

Also we need to get around ourparanoid world that will think that this can beused as a training simulation for terrorists.