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[Warning: there are links to some potentially disturbing material, and distressing images, within this piece.]

I’ve been writing quite a bit lately about my distaste for calls for “realism” in military first person shooter titles, both in comment threads and in my own, original work. What’s somewhat disheartening is that the conversation usually comes down to arguments like “Do you know what getting hit with a Squad Automatic Weapon would actually be like?” or “You understand that modern infantry tactics bear absolutely no resemblance to Modern Warfare 2, right?” or “Even mil-sims like Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising have medics that can heal missing limbs with their magic syringe.” It’s all a very clinical conversation.

EA premiered at GamesCom a video of a new Apache helicopter gunship level from the upcoming Medal of Honor, and in doing so have given me a golden opportunity to make my point in a more direct, human, and hopefully poignant fashion.

First, I recommend that you watch the GameSpot video. It bears some resemblance to the WikiLeaks helicopter gunship camera footage and audio we’ve seen from Iraq, albeit without the same level of flippancy from the pilots and gunners. The thing is, one can see EA’s attempts to be more “authentic” in their depictions of war if we contrast this with the HIND gunship level from Call of Duty: Black Ops shown at E3 this year.

Take a look at the following frame taken from the referenced Medal of Honor video:

I call your attention to the structure which is exploding and on fire. If several men with RPGs are firing at your Apache from inside a house in an Afghan village, engaging them with guns probably isn’t an option, nor is allowing them to keep firing at you. So, under the Rules of Engagement, taking down said house with rockets is perfectly legitimate. There would be no foul on behalf of the fictional Apache gunner.

However, consider that we have no idea who else was inside that house. There could have been several civilians in there. Women and children. People who really don’t deserve to be blown to kingdom come on account of some Taliban fighters deciding to hole up among civilians in the hope of staying American combat action against them.

That’s the reality of war. Civilians die. Estimates of civilian casualties in Iraq go as high as 100,000. There’s no way to confirm that, but when you’re dropping high explosives on urban targets, civilians are going to get killed. Don’t buy the mythology about “precision weapons” as though “surgical strikes” prevent the death of innocents. Our weapons are just less random than they used to be, but there will always be some aspect of randomness when one drops bombs onto, or guides missiles into, cities, towns or villages. There’s no way around it.

From a certain point of view, this conversation is ridiculous, because there are no civilians inside that house from the Medal of Honor gunship level. It’s a video game, and that’s the point. Military FPS games have to be action movies and abstractions, precisely so that we don’t have these sorts of conversations about “Who else could have been in that house?”

Let’s consider what military FPS games might look like if they weren’t abstractions; if they tried to handle their subject matter more realistically, and honestly.  Let’s say that, in Medal of Honor, you take the role of a Tier 1 operator scouting the village that the Apache gunships attacked earlier that day. You’re hoping to uncover some intel in the ruins of the village, and you encounter this:

That’s a picture of a child who was wounded in May of 2009 in an apparent U.S. missile strike on a party of Taliban trying to cross the border into Afghanistan. Not quite the same thing as an Apache unloading rockets into a house, but metaphorically it’s a valid comparison. This is the reality of war. Whether the war is just or not doesn’t really matter, either. Civilian casualties in even the most just and righteous wars that a nation could ever fight are still never, themselves, just. They’re part of the awful reality that war represents – and this is a picture of a child who was wounded but will live. I could find plenty of Afghan children who didn’t, but I think I’ve made my point.

This is what a “realistic” military FPS title has in store for us, if we ask for such a thing. This is what a video game that discusses “the deeper issues” of war will be throwing at us on a regular basis, because other than the political questions that arise from war, the deeper issues revolve around human tragedy. Is that what you want to deal with in your military FPS games?

The mother of a fallen soldier in Iraq complained on FOX News that EA was inappropriately setting its new Medal of Honor game in Afghanistan because that war is still taking place – and when EA comes back with “It’s just a game,” it’s easy to feel that they’re blowing the question off. Others may take issue with the implication that all games “are just games” when they want the medium to mature into something better.

No, video games don’t always have to be “just games.” They can be legitimate vehicles for serious discussion of serious issues. When it comes to military FPS titles, however, yes, they are all “just a game,” because they need to be.

  1. Great article Dennis, and very fitting too. I just watched The Hurt Locker last night…

    • avatar Sam

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    • avatar Anonymous

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  2. avatar Chase Cook

    I have no problem with video games exploring realistic war scenarios in an effort to develop a deeper and more complex maturity. The problem is that the video game industry still hasn’t found the footholds to defend themselves without saying “this is just a game.”

    Yeah? Well Saving Private Ryan was just a movie, but that doesn’t mean the impact from its story was affected by that. If developers are willing to take the risk, and make something more, than I sure their story will be just as impactful, if not more so, because we get to experience the conflict firsthand.

    • I have to say that Saving Private Ryan doesn’t have the same impact as actually being on the beach at D-Day. Not even close. That entire first scene in Saving Private Ryan has been carefully orchestrated, blocked, shot, and edited. It’s a ballet. Sure it’s loud, and noisy, and we see some shocking things in there (to some people’s sensibilities, anyway), but that’s nothing compared to what the reality much have been.

      We do not “get to experience the conflict” firsthand in Saving Private Ryan. We’re watching an interpretation of that battle which is still being scrubbed rather clean in order to not get an X rating (for violence and gore – did you know that the first cut of Robocop was rated X and so the producers actually had to tone it down?) and be shut out of theaters altogether. The most realistic war movie ever made will not even get distribution.

    • avatar Chase Cook

      My point was, and I should have clarified better, was that Saving Private Ryan *was* just a movie. I agree with your ballet metaphor. What I said after was,

      “If developers are willing to take the risk, and make something more, than I’m sure their story will be just as impactful, if not more so, because we get to experience the conflict firsthand.”

      Developers meaning, video game developers. No, nobody will probably ever make something as scary as D-day actually was, and holding everything up in comparison of that isn’t really fair. However, Saving Private Ryan was still a fantastic movie that captured some of the horrors of war. Not all, but some.

      My argument is that video games can put themselves in a position to tell relevant stories about the contemporary horrors of war (friendly fire, suicide bombers, children wielding weapons) if they are willing to take a more mature approach to it. But, I think video games haven’t found their place yet as a legitimate medium to the masses, so they will continue to shy away from doing something great in an effort to make the pundits happy.

      That’s why I was a big fan of the “No Russian” level in Modern Warefare 2. It wasn’t the best, but god damnit, it was a step forward.

  3. Jim Sterling had a great discussion on this as well – it’s a really interesting thing to ponder, Dennis, and I don’t really have an answer for it right now. Great work!

  4. I disagree entirely. These are topics that have been explored in film, literature and art. The placement of glass ceilings over games is keeping games from reaching their potential. I applaud EA for attempting to provide an authentic experience based on actual events. Maybe if other developers keep pushing the envelope first person shooters will be able to provide artistic, meaningful experiences rather than just comic violence that leaves people cold and unfeeling.

  5. avatar Osbo

    I disagree as well. Consequences are the inevitable conclusion of choice, not just immediate, but the aftermath. Fallout 2 explored this concept pretty well – how does a town fair after our hero wreaks his selfish need for entertainment?

    In a more realistic scenario one can use realistic consequences to explore war. It won’t be a just a war reenactment or war game anymore, but a different kind of experience that will allow the shooter to elevate beyond what it has been.

  6. @ Kyle -

    That’s the thing – EA *isn’t* making an authentic experience. That’s just marketing copy.

    @ Osbo -

    I don’t know that bringing up Fallout 2 in the context of this specific conversation is entirely appropriate, because it’s pure fiction. You could have depicted outright genocide in Fallout 2 and while it would have been controversial, it would have been something taking place in an entirely fictional world that bore no resemblance whatsoever to our own.

    I think the truth of what you said, is that any title which depicted “realistic” situations with “realistic” consequences would become an entirely different experience altogether…and what I’m arguing is that it would also cease to be a first person shooter. I’m not arguing that it’s impossible to deal with the subject of war in a mature fashion, using contemporary settings, in a video game – I’m arguing that such a game would not be like Medal of Honor, or Modern Warfare. It would probably be more like Heavy Rain, dealing not with action and combat, but with psychological states and mood.

    I think it would be interesting to see someone sketch out what they thought the sort of meaningful, artistic military FPS we’re hypothesizing would look like, and how it would play. What the story would be. And then, to make an honest assessment as to whether or not it would be any fun. Games have to be fun, that’s Design 101 right there. Games are defined by the fact that they are -played.- Check out Warren Spector’s GamesCom speech, as I think it’s relevant.

  7. You have inspired an idea. Civilians in an in-game battlefield would revamp a players entire strategy, causing players to be more cautious over every single bullet they fire. The consequence for killing civilians in-game could consist of massive decreases in player level and/or rank, enough to make the player remorseful and think about what they’ve done, as well as a permanent count in the players stats for everyone to see. All this would, IMHO, make for a mature realistic experience.

    At this point I ask myself: “Wouldn’t this trivialize human lives?”. Well, that’s already been happening as it is. Think about it.

    • I think that is a large part of his point Ferahtsu. Watch the trailer for that mission. At one point a guy gets shot by the machine guns of the player controlled chopper and he literally flies through the air doing cartwheels. Maybe it is just me but that isn’t what happens when someone gets shot by a minigun in the real world. I especially enjoy the part at the end where the female pilot literally says something along the lines of “to hell with the Geneva Convention just light the whole village up”.

      FPS games, especially those like modern warfare and medal of honor, trivialize violence and killing in the extreme. Forget about civilian casualty issues, in a “realistic” FPS you wouldn’t even be allowed to fire your gun until someone started shooting at you first and you would actually have a story around the 200 faceless war buddies who die while the game plays out and then at the end you would have to explain to their wives and kids why it happened.

      The very foundation of FPS games are over the top almost comical violence and an absolute need to trivialize all the killing and death you do and in modern warfare 2′s case it even trivializes the player characters death after awhile.

  8. Also, look at the terminology you’re using, Ferahtsu. Player level? Rank? Permanent counts? They’re all gaming terms. Scorecards. Credit systems. What does any of that have to do with a “mature, realistic experience?” And if the gamer felt “remorseful,” would it be for having killed virtual civilians, or being pissed off that they ruined their score in a game?

    In order to even begin thinking about making a “mature, realistic” experience that deals with war, you first have to make that experience cease to be a game. To do anything otherwise is an insult to anyone who actually hits the battlefield. Even those who fight in war and think that it is sometimes necessary will never tell you that it is enjoyable or fun.

    Another way to consider all this is to conduct a thought experiment. Let’s say that Electronic Arts comes up with the most authentic, realistic military FPS game ever made. Are you going to be prepared to walk up to someone who has just returned from active combat duty in Afghanistan and who saw serious action, hold up a copy of that game in front of them, and say “Dude, this game is JUST like what you just went through! It’s THAT realistic!” If and when someone develops a game where one of us could actually compare it to the real life experience of a returning veteran and not expect to be punched in the face immediately, I guess that’s when we’ll have encountered a military first person shooter which is actually mature and realistic.

    If you haven’t read it, this is a really good article talking to a bunch of servicemen about Medal of Honor and the whole “controversy.”

    I culled this from towards the end:

    “(Roberts, Army) I hate the fact that recruiters use [Modern Warfare] as a means of finding recruits, and the fact that they practice this may mean that MW is actually making kids that think war is a fun game, so the military and killing real people must be fun too. Maybe recruiters should use this quote from Albert Joubaire, a French Soldier that served in Verdun in WW I, “What a bloodbath, what horrid images, what a slaughter. I just cannot find the words to express my feelings. Hell cannot be this dreadful” to find recruits, not massive MW contests.”

    Amen, Specialist Roberts. I think that if there’s anything really negative to be said about military first person shooter games, it’s not that they glorify violence, it’s that they’ve created an entire generation of video gamers who actually think that any of these games bear ANY reality to what combat is actually like such that marketers can talk about making “realistic” or “authentic” military FPS games with a straight face and not be immediately shouted down for insulting everyone who actually goes out and fights.

    • I was referring to an online multiplayer scenario. Your question is the equivalent to asking “would you feel remorse for accidentally killing yourself or being pissed off that it ruins your score?”. You’re simply segregating cause and effect. By “mature” I meant less childish antics, like running around guns blazing. By “realistic” I meant just that. Realistic does not mean real. Your second paragraph has me dumbfounded (were you referring to reality?).

      Approaching a war veteran and comparing their military career to any form of media is just plain asinine. You’ll never in your life find any piece of entertainment that can compare to anything reality has to offer.

    • whoa! cool trick, changing your comment and all

    • avatar Daniel S

      To Dennis Scimeca:

      You wrote: “…no one’s really going to feel bad for what they ought to feel bad about, i.e. killing civilians in a crossfire because they are innocents”

      Well, I’m a 30 year old gamer and I’ve been playing fps games since the genre was born. And I think you’re potentially wrong here on that particual quote (sorry for bad quoting btw, dunno how to partially quote on this site)

      Remember the airport level in MW2 where you shoot down innocent unarmed people ? Well, that part actually got to me to a certain degree. DOn’t get me wrong, I mean, I love fps games with blood, gore and gibs. Just love it. Probably why enjoyed the mediocre Soldier of Fortune games, because of the “realistic” extreme violence that no other fps games wanted to explore further.

      But when I opened fire at the innocent people in that airport in MW2, pixels or not, it just felt wrong shooting civilians when they have no means of returning fire (even though it was a great level for the purpose of the storytelling.) I don’t think most fps games should go for total realism in gameplay mechanics like 100% realistic recoil, reloading times, healing and so on. But I would like to see women, children and animals in the fps world where they act as if it was real. Screaming in panic, crying for mercy while shielding their kids. Trust me, people with kids would hesistate to shoot just out of reflex, that’s for sure. Even though it’s not real and only a game.

      This is easier to do for games where story is the driving force. Multiplayer is obviously different since there is usually no story deep story behind anything. But it’s still possible if they decided to place two opposing teams in a realistic setting where they sell you the illusion of NPCs that really act and look like they’re scared to death and being given the A.I to react differently on different situations that would occur instead of being dumb sheep with no sign of real human emotions like the hostages in Counter-Strike. I think human emotion is the thing they should trigger more in the gamers, because we’re not monsters either ;)

  9. I’m not sure how whether your comments were set in the context of single- or multiplayer gaming matters. In either case, no one’s really going to feel bad for what they ought to feel bad about, i.e. killing civilians in a crossfire because they are innocents, in the situation you describe. They’ll feel bad about their rank or score, i.e. aspects of a game, and not be dealing with the real, “authentic” issues in any way.

    If you remove “running around guns blazing,” are you really even talking about first person shooters anymore? The only games I can think of which are technically still FPS titles, and which don’t have us running around guns blazing…well, they’re actually not considered FPS titles, they’re considered “military simulations,” to wit Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, and ArmA II. That would seem to support my proposition that no military FPS can ever really approach “realism.”

    What does “realistic” mean if not “reflecting reality?” What is the metric against which claims of “realism” are measured if not “the real thing?” You just proposed that a more “realistic” military FPS title would be one in which civilians were caught in the crossfire, which is something that might happen in “the real world,” but which usually does not in video games.

  10. avatar Peter Bradley

    The military should fucking nuke the whole of Iraqi and Afghanistan. Fuck the civilians. They are in league with the fucking Taliban anyway.
    Bollox to them dirty rag head cunts.

  11. avatar Not an idiot...

    When I play GAMES, I treat them as GAMES. When I SHOOT Human looking PIXELS with my PIXEL bullets, I’m not actually SHOOTING real humans with real bullets.

    Stop trying to relate GAMES to REAL LIFE.

    • avatar Not an idiot...

      PERFECT Avatar for this article… Good thing there’s REAL RUSSIANS roaming around Killing people in NYC, but hey, at least they know the cops are looking for them with the stars in their HUD, and at least they can relax with a game of darts, or shoot some pool.

      Way to promote GTAIV using their picture, but to get your panties all up in a bunch with a WAR game… key word being GAME. Get over yourself. Move on to the next hit-grabbing buzz word.

      Wish I could “un-hit” this website and drive your finances into the ground with the garbage. Go interview for Fox News kid.

      Don’t bother replying – I’m not returning to see your dumb response about a GAME.

    • In other words, you agree with me? Military first person shooter games aren’t realistic? I’m not sure I see your argument, here…

  12. avatar Mark

    If only the cowardly taliban didn’t hide amongst civilians, we wouldn’t have the problem…

  13. avatar Religion&GunsClinger

    Wow what a bunch of liberal bs and whining. “I watched hurt locker again last night.” LOL! Way to do your liberal duty.

    Here’s the argument to end all arguments. Unless any of you are arguing that EA should somehow be barred by a government-controlled agency, then your real concern seems to be that many will buy this game and enjoy enacting these almost real-to-life scenarios with bloodlusty glee. I submit to you that many will play this game with reverence, knowing that Medal of Honor is aiming for a more realistic, relevant tone. Reverence. Not a word you hear often from liberals, so I’ll explain a bit more. Even though Medal of Honor is “just a game” many will play it realizing that our soldiers have encountered similar situations in Afghanistan, and their respect for these soldiers will only increase. Is that a bad thing? And as for the picture of your innocent Iraqi child casualty, I submit to you again that many will play the Apache level wondering if, in the real world, there were innocents in those adobe huts, yet still recognizing that this is indeed a game. Awareness raised. Again, a bad thing?

    • avatar Anonymous

      It’s awesome that someone on N4G said this was written by FOX News, and now someone else says that it’s “liberal.”

  14. avatar OOOHHHH

    Games are just games. An art form some people don’t see as art. Let’s stop worrying about being PC and leave PC where it belongs. In the political trenches. The developers need to supply gamers with an enjoyable, high quality product an gamers will set the price based on supply and demand. People just need to make thier own decisions with purchases, and except that they control thier own fate (video games don’t make you do anything).

    The war is a serious issue, the game is just a platform to speak of the war. How can you consider anything having to do with video games serious issue, when generations of people have stood thier ground in battle so gamers can sit on thier couches.

    PC is for people who can except that the world isn’t going to be perfect. Expecially within themselves.

    • We agree with each other, then. Military FPS games should not be vehicles for dealing with the realities of war because those realities are awful, and not fodder for fun gaming experiences.

    • avatar Chase Cook

      Fun is a relative term. Movies depict the atrocities of war to tell a good story, and to ENTERTAIN you. Whether you gather that entertainment from the movies possible factual background, or the special effects, is up to you. Video games should be given the same leeway because they are a legitimate storytelling medium.

  15. avatar val

    Has anyone herd of the game Six days in Fallujah? That game that got canceled because it was too controversial. Well out of all your “realistic” games that one would have actually been realistic. That one would probably have deserved an article like this but not medal of honor. I see your point i do however the new medal of honor games is based on a fictional war around Afghanistan, so i don’t know why your making an article based on that game. Honestly i think their should be realistic fps games because then people might pay attention more to what is going on. Video games are a good way to get people to pay attention to them whether they be controversial or just plain bad people pay attention.

    • The article isn’t actually about Medal of Honor. It’s about military FPS games and whether they can ever be realistic. Medal of Honor is simply used as an example because that Apache gunship level footage is so perfectly contrasted with the WikiLeaks Apache gunship footage to show just how UNrealistic the new Medal of Honor is going to be.

      That being the case, there’s an argument to be made that anyone complaining about the game being “offensive” isn’t making any sense, because clearly the game has nothing to do with the reality of what’s going on over in Afghanistan.

      I don’t think that anyone who isn’t paying attention to the War in Afghanistan is going to pay any more attention on account of any video game. If someone honestly isn’t paying attention -by this point- they are either blind or deaf (in which, and in either, case playing a video game isn’t something they are doing anyway), don’t own a television set or know anyone who does (in which case they can’t play video games), or is a hermit living in the woods somewhere (and who probably doesn’t have electricity and, once again, cannot play video games).

    • avatar Akulah

      quoto nick (soprattutto per i filtri cltpiapi alle foto, faccio la stessa cosa XD ).ragazzi, ogni tanto provo qualche gioco un po’ vecchiotto ma denso di stile e ne rimango ancora piacevolemnte colpito.shadow of the colossus, non sar questo florilegio di poligoni ma ancora in grado di incantare o quando giocai al primo sient hill, graficamente meno d’mpatto rispetto alla serie di re(che si giovava di dettagliatissimi sfondi prerenderizzari), eppure la suggestione artistica di quel titolo (che trovata geniale quelle “oscillazioni” della realt ) era di gran lunga superiore.giusto per fare un ultimo esmepio, pi attinente ai giorni nostri: quando presi zelda twiligt pricess ( il primo zelda a cui abbia giocato, se non il primo che abbia mai visto), speravo solo in una buona storia dato che sulla rete avevo letto molte critiche sulla componente tecnica.ora sar io che sono abituato male, che non conosco la serie appunto, ma a me sembra bellissimo, pieno di poesia e dettagli.poi, sar che sono vecchio (e, non scherzo, credo che sia davvero una componente che incide in maniera rilevante sul mio metro di valutazione) ma davvero non mi sento di puntare esclusivamente sul realismo visivo per giudicare l’aspetto di un prodotto (lo so, sembra un ossimoro ma vi risparmio la speigazione e altre 40 righe di post). che la forza sia con voi e con lavezzi.

  16. avatar Anonymous

    Who cares if anyone wad in that house it’s a video game it’s not real no ones dying

  17. avatar .


  18. @ Daniel S -

    Thank you for the thought-out comment, first of all. :)

    I was hoping someone would bring up “No Russian.” I didn’t enjoy that level, to be honest. I went through it because I always want the total experience a game has to throw at me, whether I wind up liking it or not, and that event is integral to the entire plot of Modern Warfare 2.

    It was not fun, IMHO. It didn’t suck in terms of being bad quality, but it sucked in terms of “My God, that’s awful.” When the terrorists walked up to people trying to drag the wounded out of the way and not only shot the samaritan AND finished off the wounded civilian? That’s harsh.

    Now, that’s not an example of a “realistic military engagement” in an FPS…but did you note the lack of children in the crowd? Even “No Russian” pulled an important punch, and didn’t cross that line. That would have only made the experience even worse for someone conscientious like ourselves…but now imagine an entire game that resembled “No Russian.” That’s what I’m proposing a “realistic” military FPS game would feel like. I certainly don’t want to play that game. I don’t think anyone does. :(

  19. avatar Anonymous

    “Estimates of civilian casualties in Iraq go as high as 100,000″

    Fact check: while difficult to verify since the military doesn’t keep track of civilian casualties, estimates of civilian casualties were coming in at over 650,000 as early as 2006… (studies that include malnourishment due to devastation of infrastracture in addition to ‘violence’). It’s more likely a conservative estimate that by this point there have been AT LEAST 100,000 civilian deaths (some reports now estimating up to a million) – indeed, it’s difficult to find a serious, non-corporate sponsored study that shows any numbers much lower than 100,000.

  20. avatar R.S. Hunter

    I dunno. A realistic military FPS would feel like an entire “No Russian” game, but that doesn’t mean it would necessarily be without merit. If games are a form of artistic expression and should be considered on the same tier as film, then it stands to reason that they don’t always have to be “fun.”

    If playing a game could somehow get the same reaction out of me as say watching something like Schindler’s List, then I’d say that was a damn fine game. Even if it wasn’t fun in the traditional sense.

  21. avatar Cable201

    Developers should stop trying to make FPS games “realistic”. They will never address the subject of warfare with the gravity and sincerity necessary to accurately portray the horror and destruction, both on a physical and psychological level. If that is point of this article then I would have to agree. In terms of making a game that people would want to play, a realistic combat experience would run contrary to that intent.

    And Dennis I agree that, at the same time, this particular subject affords the medium and opportunity to transcend the classic definition of what a game is. To elevate itself beyond the game to something more; a somber, edifying experience that has the potential to influence hearts and minds. This elusive goal has been a pursuit of those not only in the game industry, but those working in television and film as well. Thus far, the technology of game development has been the single most limiting fact in this regard. Developers are not capable of capturing the subtle nuances of humanity, of human movement, behavior, and interaction.

    We are at a very exciting point in the evolution of gaming. With games like LA Noir, that are able to truly inject believable, lifelike human performances into the medium, we find ourselves at a very difficult crossroads. Does gaming attempt to maintain it’s presence as a fun, but often laughable, generally inaccurate interpretation of humanity and our experiences with life, love, and war? Or does the community take on the challenge and implicit responsibility of crafting a truly realistic experience, taking into account the all of the intrinsic minutiae? Video “games” could deliver an unparalleled representation of a myriad of life experiences, but once you leave the “game” behind, is the resulting experience profitable?

    We all know that companies exist first and foremost to perpetuate themselves, generally by filling a need more economically and efficiently then their competitors. What is the incentive to venture into such uncertain and ultimately controversial territory when one flop, one poorly received or misunderstood product, regardless of it’s aim, could shut down a studio? Are the profit margins just too slim to see this evolution come to fruition?

    • David Cage just spoke at GamesCom about how Heavy Rain did much better than he thought it would. I still am not convinced that Heavy Rain is actually a video game versus “interactive fiction,” which is something different…but I think Heavy Rain showed that the sort of thing you’re talking about can make a profit, and be worth pursuing.

    • avatar Tanya

      Hola recien lo decasrgo, lo provare para luego decir como me fue, pero les adelanto que esto de los softwares es muy importante para el desarrollo de los universitarios y no la porqueria de esos ingenieros que ensef1an a lo antiguo, es decir solo teoria

  22. avatar philbert

    As one of the designers of OFP: DR, I am interested in the topic of realism in military FPS. I have been a student of military history for a long time and served in uniform (never saw action) for a stint. I have always found the game industry’s approach to military FPS hypocritical and fake. As a developer I laugh at studios’ claims to authenticity.

    For me, my goal on Flashpoint was to redress the squeaky clean image of combat that the game industry gives to impressionable young gamers. A really authentic experience is one of fear and horror. The fear of death and the shock provoked by seeing what modern military hardware does to the human body. I wanted decapitations and severed limbs, blood, guts, brains. I got most of it, thanks to a very understanding art director, but I think the results speak for themselves. Watching a human skull break apart from the shock of 20 bullets impacting at 3600 kph in less than half of a second should be profoundly shocking. War is a horror story really, and the bodies tell that story, and foreshadow what lies in store for you.

    In OFP I wanted to player to feel vulnerable and out of control, sucked into a massive jagged tooth machine that ground bodies 24/7. The exact opposite of what the other guys do. Instead of being the killing machine that defeats the entire enemy army, you are a bag of meat with a target painted on it. The only way you survive is through planning, training and a bit of luck. I hope I succeeded.

    • I was a fan of OF:DR. I liked that engagements were at 250+ meters, and that using the rangefinders to adjust sights was a requirement before engaging. I liked that PLA soldiers hit the ground when you shot at them (i.e. that suppression fire actually DID something).

  23. avatar It affects us Subconsciously

    I have to say that for those people that think “it’s just a game” don’t understand these types of thing affects us subconsciously. Yes, it is a game but the problem is not that it’s based upon a current event or current concepts but that the industry itself is saturated with violent games. Every game, most of them anyway, is about killing. Killing to get money, killing to save a life, killing to beat something. It’s not just that, a lot of movies themselves depict killing, hurting, and other forms of violence to resolve issues. This doesn’t cause us to act out but it does create this illusion of resolving conflict. Why is it that war seems to be the only solution to things? 9/11 occurs and the first thing that people crave is violence and revenge. I’m not saying that the whole incident is wrong but I’m saying we are repeating history because we keep visiting the same concept (of killing) over and over and over again.

    The only saving grace is that we are born with personalities that refuse violence, so at least with this biological gift we are not in anarchy.

  24. avatar oh btw....

    This is the most intellectual article, I’ve ever seen in gaming journalism. I have to find more like this one. Thanks Dennis!

  25. avatar Dallin

    Really amazing article. A shining star amidst the awful, unintelligent swill out there people call gaming journalism.

  26. avatar Wada 117

    I have to agree, this is a very intellectually-stimulating article. I had the same type of living room and cafe discussions with my buddies. I never served in uniform, nor have I lived in an environment engulfed in abject violence; however, I would always argue that FPS cannot address the horrors of war. In fact, they false impression that they give to younger, impressionable minds gives the false notion that it’s “cool” to whack someone’s head off with w .50 cal sniper rifle.

    Just the other day, I was talking to a 14-year old kid in my karate class and he told me that he wanted to be a sniper in the Army. As someone who also aspires to join the military, I asked him why, expecting that he would have a more noble reason for joining up. I gave him the benefit of the doubt that it had anything to do with a videogame. He then replied that he wants to be a sniper so he can shoot people like LT Price in “All Ghillied Up” in CoD4 MW. I asked him if he knew what it meant to kill someone, and he responded with a blank stare. I then asked him if he’s talked to his grandfather about war (gramps has seen action in Operation Overlord in WWII), and the kids said that grandpa doesn’t talk to anyone about that. I closed by strongly advising the kid to talk to granddad about war before trying to be a sniper.

    I’m sure many of us know of kids like this, or may even fall in the same category. Now don’t get me wrong, I love me some CoD when I just wanna waste some pixels and NOT THINK about it. OFP: DR hadme thinking – a lot. It wasn’t a FPS. There was no frolicing through stages with predetermined avenues of approach, scripted AI, and knowing where the bad guys come from all the time. All of that open terrain, rolling hills, and movement from objective to objective forced me to think A LOT. But it still pales in comparison to the planning done for a 11-man squad to go on a foot patrol in real life. And, as much as I liked the game, stores took it off the shelf quick because people didn’t like that fact that they had to THINK and PLAN, and that you spend 90% of your time moving and the rest actually fighting. People were expecting an FPS, not anything resembling real life combat missions.

    Case in point, I would like to see another OFP with better voice acting, a better plot, and more interaction with noncombatants. The voice acting and the plot help to immerse the gamer into the environment so he/she feels like they are actually in the game. The gamer feels for the characters more if the setting and the characters feel real I.e., you have to deceive the gamer into believing that they are in the virtual world on the other side of the screen (Mass Effect did a wonderful job at this). Coupling immersive elements such as this with “collateral damage” in the form of women, children, etc with believable audiovisual depictions of them may go a long way into making a “Schindler’s List” for consoles.

  27. avatar Anon

    “Civilian casualties in even the most just and righteous wars that a nation could ever fight are still never, themselves, just.”


    • avatar Anonymous

      And saying that basically makes you as bad as the Taliban, you realize. The good guys would never think like you do.

  28. avatar philbert

    We didn’t have the budget for civilian skins, the animation set would have doubled and for little added gameplay, so we couldn’t justify the expense of including them, but had there been civilians, (like that other excellent game, the original OFP), I would have shown the consequences of indiscriminate use of hardware faithfully. Ironically the more game technology progresses, the harder it is to include these touches (civilians) that round out the experience. Thanks for the feedback ;)

  29. avatar Lepper

    Authentic, not realistic. There is a difference.

  30. avatar Cable201

    @ philbert

    I thoroughly enjoyed the campaign for OFP: Dragon Rising, but was eventually put off by a few issues, including the load out restrictions. I spent too much time scavenging for weapons that hit harder or had better optics. The teammate AI was frustrating at times, as they would often move in front of cover, revealing our position prematurely. In spite of these petty gripes, the tension that permeated the game-play was truly engaging. The knowledge that a single well placed shot could put you or a teammate out of action forced me to commit an exhaustive level of focus to planning an assault. Finding angles of approach with advantageous sight lines, or that afforded my squad the best cover and concealment, only further enriched the experience. The title was certainly a welcome addition to the limited “tactical” FPS field.

    • avatar Sandeep

      Io consiglio di cormpare gli occhiali a tutti quelli che denigrano questo gioco il Quantum 3 un engine che sfrutta la riflessione e la rifrazione della luce e quindi focalizza l’attenzione sui chiaroscuri, sugli effetti delle ombre e delle parti dell’ambiente meglio illuminate poi non so se avete notato il dettaglio delle vene sulla mano de sto tizio e il level design delle armi e degli scarafaggetti piccoli ma lasciamo stare io the conduit lo considero un gioco next-gen semplicemente per il fatto che superiore alla old gen ovvero la ps2 inferiore al 360 e ps3 ma cmq next gen Per quanto riguarda gli ambienti (secondo me fantastici) questo gioco non halo 3 o metroid che si basano sull’esplorazione dei pianeti ma su un’invasione aliena della Terra, quindi ci sono citt e monumenti verosimili, biblioteche, strade etc Un gran gioco.

  31. avatar wampdog29

    Myself being a Marine vet, I wish you would at least research some things before you write about them. “Rules of engagement” always change. There is never a set rule of engagement for longer than a few weeks. Situations and time always change. In Iraq, we were aloud to shoot anything that moved… at first. Then it was only shoot when being fired at or IEDs going off. After this, they added anyone with a shovel on the side of the road could be shot as well. This was due to the fact that most likely, an Iraqi with a shovel on the side of the road would be digging and burying an IED. War is not as simple as you make it sound.

    As for your example of firing on an enemy in an Afghan village, it would all depend on the threat and what we needed in that village. Sometimes, the innocent die in war, and although a very bad thing, it may just end up preventing future bodies killed and at higher quantities.

    • avatar jesus

      Holy ____ man you actually defend the murder of innocent civilians? What if the police killed your family and said “It would prevent blah blah blah generic meaningless statement”.

    • avatar wampdog29

      I didn’t say murdering was good. I said that sometimes innocent people get caught in the middle of war and die. Not on purpose ass.

  32. avatar Sanzee

    You just started a huge argument you idiot. Even if you’re right, you had to know what this would turn into. Why did you do this!

  33. avatar john

    The author needs to shut his fucking trap!! If u dont like shooting and killing in a game then don’t play FPS’!! Fucking stupid idiot

  34. avatar theerook

    exactly man STFU b4 talkin anything you dont know about or u just wanna talk for the sake of talkin? Then talk btch talk

  35. avatar dr. zomberg

    this is MY reason why i hate realism in videogames:
    THEYRE VIDEOGAMES. i dont like that i have to aim a little higher and to the right to shoot someone fro afar with a sniper rifle, thats for real life, not a video game.
    videogames NEED a ceratin degree of unrealism, or else they are just virtual reality, or simulators.

    • avatar Graciela

      Inizialmente tutti osannavano The Conduit perch gli autroi mostravano di avere l’intenzione di spremere fino in fondo le potenzialit grafiche della console : per la maggior parte degli utenti questo bastava a giustificarne l’acquisto, il gameplay, la trama e l’originalit non sono discussi nemmeno lontanamente in alcuno dei commenti qui elencati, il che equivale a dire “Purch non sfiguri graficamente, lo compro”.Poi nel corso dei mesi, grazie ai vari trailer si iniziato a delineare un magior spessore della struttura narrativa, nonch del gameplay, il che un bene ma non comunque fondamentale: “The Conduit” sar un immenso successo commerciale su scala planetaria a prescindere in quanto non esiste un possibile rivale a contendersi i soldi dell’utenza (Metroid Prime 3 ha gi un anno e mezzo sul groppone e gli appassionati lo hanno gi finito in tutte le salse), inoltre il 2009 si sta rivelando avaro di sorprese Insomma, faccio il tifo per High Voltage nella speranza che non deluda le nostre aspettative ma, siamo sinceri, in un contesto normale in cui i giochi di qualit non si facciano desiderare, probabilmente non lo avremmo desiderato a tal punto

  36. avatar scotto

    Many, many people in this world practice evil — they ignore the God-given conscience that tells them it is wrong to kill. Unfortunately, innocent children pay the penalty for what their fathers, grandfathers, and even great-grandfathers have chosen to partake in. …visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me (ten commandments) …in a world that hate’s God…you have wars. I believe the only way out is a spiritual route. Those 10 commandments that are being erased from many public wall’s in our country?…that’s a good place to start.

    • avatar blaze

      god given? really? lol

    • avatar You kidding?

      Let’s all listen to the voiceless invisible wizard that only communicates through old pedophiles housed in lavish palaces, who threaten everyone with the ultimatum of eternal damnation or salvation at the cost of their free will and 15% of their income.

  37. avatar pedrof

    Soldier Of Fortune 2 was more realistic than any current gen FPS.

  38. avatar blaze

    but this is JUST a video game,yes we want a realistic fps, for example medal of honour is storys of these Teir 1 Soldiers, these are there storys, if this game wasnt made the way its made, there story would never be told and people would keep taking there safety for granted,this game shows that things like this happen, and this is why and how, and who,to put it simple, if you have a problem with a product, don’t buy it.people want games as realistic as they can without sucking because they don’t want to REALLY do this in real life, so games like this give them a way to do it in there own room and have fun, its a crazy world…. but Realism in video games is the least of our worrys

    • avatar Laura

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  39. avatar blaze

    REPLY TO scotto: Thes we have now and 99% of them have been for two reasons, GOD And resources.

    these wars today are because white god lovers in the USA hate there god,simple, and getting a few billion gallons of oil while your there is a good deal.

    GOD starts wars, oh and by the way, im am AUSSIE and we just Elected a Atheist Leader YAY!!!!! gods losing, better pick a side lol

    • avatar Limited Gamer


      Seriously? Human’s start wars for a variety of reasons. Even for a soccer game (July 14th, 1969 – El Salvador v. Honduras).

      One final thought for you. I am a Christian, you are an atheist, so consider two possibilities:

      1. God does not exist. You are right. I am wrong.
      2. God does exist. I am right. You are wrong.

      We both die on the same day, let’s say. If #1 turns out to be the truth, then we are both dead, no heaven, no hell, nothing. Worst case for me is I lived a good life with strong morals.

      But what if #2 is the truth. I go to heaven and you go to hell. Read the bible, it’s all there for you to read and learn, if you choose to believe.

      Think about it. If I turn out to be wrong, not a big deal. But if you turn out to be wrong……eternity is a long, long time.

      “There are NO atheists in foxholes” General Steele (M*A*S*H)

      Moderators please delete or flame my Christian comments, it’s the cool thing to do nowadays. You score big with leftist liberal females, especially if you let them watch you delete my comment. :-)

      PS: great website, by the way! You guys really did a great job here. You have a new daily reader now.

  40. avatar Limited Gamer

    EA should also add a liberal government that crucifies you every time you make the slightest mistake in the chaos of combat. There should also be immensely hard to understand and vague “Rules of Engagement” that require a handbook to follow, but must be done in the real-time of combat in the game.

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  41. avatar Limited Gamer

    Frankly, all these FPS’s jumped the shark after Rogue Warrior. Once you finished that game, what else can top that?!?!

    • avatar wampdog29

      About your M.A.S.H. comment on there are no atheists in foxholes, I am an atheist and a former Marine, so it’s a good thing us Marines don’t call them “foxholes”, but rather fighting holes because we don’t hide like coward foxes do.

      Again, I’ll tell you that in real life, rules of engagement always change with the situation. Until video games can become smart enough for A.I. to outsmart the player and change on the fly, the rules of engagement will never be real enough and therefor should just stay away until then.

  42. avatar Maserbeam

    From a purely gamer standpoint, the reason I want “realism” in my militaristic FPS games is so that firing and shooting the gun results in relatively believable outcomes. Unfortunately, rag-doll physics is still pretty crap. (Or fortunately, depending on the point-of-view.) Or that the tree I shot at isn’t some kind of super structure able to withstand a direct hit from a nuclear weapon.

    In the end, I agree with you Dennis. If FPS games were to suddenly be very realistic.. I’d probably uninstall the game without a single thought.

    • avatar Sara

      Hola recien lo drgeacso, lo provare para luego decir como me fue, pero les adelanto que esto de los softwares es muy importante para el desarrollo de los universitarios y no la porqueria de esos ingenieros que ensef1an a lo antiguo, es decir solo teoria

  43. avatar John

    Look,what is the point of talking about a game depicting real situations?Is it because it is considered a mock to said situation?I don´t think the developers would publish a game just to make fun of something as relevant as war.It is and it will continue to be a GAME…or would you criticize the boardgame RISK?The countries are real arent they?And playing against each other to CONQUER countries?War is a source of inspiration,and if what you say is true then wouldnt the GTA series be as insulting?Or arent COPS as important as soldiers?Of course they are!

    Don’t bring the burocracy of the real world and the politics and the irreverence of some people to what is suppouse to be an escape to all of those tribulations.I’m not saying both worlds arent intertwined,I’m saying people should not get CONFUSE.A game is a game,be it a boardgame a videogame or any type of game,each and every one of them is based on some aspect of the real world,if not…from where?Name one SUCCESFUL game that is not related in some way to the real world and that DOES NOT contain any aspect relating to human emotions or actions or ideologies?

    WE play the games…not the other way around…get it?

  44. avatar Hmmm

    Of course “war” GAMES aren’t realistic. You hardly see limbs flying off. The death of a squad member isn’t this whole big deal. Games aren’t movies or real life. The thing about video games is that people still think we’re playing super nintendo. You know games where a chubby, short plumber is jumping around catching mushrooms and flowers. Sure, those games are nice and all, but the industry is trying to mature. War isn’t pretty. People get hurt, whether they’re civilians or soldiers, it doesn’t really matter. People get hurt or killed. It’s the reality of life, yet video games can’t try to show anything too bad or else right away people will start saying how video games were created by Satan or other crazy stuff like that. I highly doubt EA or any other company would make a video game in order to make fun of what’s going on in the world. Movies can be realistic and show the most gruesome of deaths and kids getting hurt and the such and but video games can’t? Either everyone is a hypocrite or they’re just too stupid to notice the little letter on the low-right hand corner of the video game box, unlike the movie rating. Shame on you all.

    • avatar wampdog29

      The deaths of a squad member in games is actually very real. What, do you think in combat us Marines just stop fighting when a squadmate dies? EHHH wrong. We keep fighting, and then after the fighting is over, we collect our dead and bring them home. Well Marines do anyway, I’m not too sure about Army soldiers.
      I am not saying we don’t feel sadness, but it isn’t some drawn out thing like you see in the movies. When it happens, we normally don’t grieve until after we are done in the combat zone.

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  46. avatar Anonymous

    you all missing the point concerning the reality aspect of our topic in this forum.. when we talking “reality” we the gamer that want reality are referring to the way the first shooter game plays not the grossness of the visual scenes.

  47. avatar TopherTheRed

    Love when people miss the point entirely. Countering gamers want for more realism in FPS’s by talking about civilian casualties and the horrors of war stupid. These are games where the sole point is to kill. What making toons more fragile and weapons more dangerous has to do with the horrors of war misses me completely. From a psychological stand point making toons less fragile just makes violence more acceptable to those with a fragile enough mind to not get that it’s a game. But hey if an apache’s 30mm chain gun hardly hurting infantry but demolishing main battle tanks in BF3 allows you to forget that non-coms can get hurt in war… well I guess that actually means you have some serious psychological issues.

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