Vietnam and other modern war shooters-Anyone else disturbed?

Let me preface this by saying I’m not against these games being made. I just find I don’t have any interest in playing them.

Maybe it’s because I’m a crusty old 37 and watching the news about Vietnam is among my earliest disturbing memories. Maybe it’s because I’ve known a couple of people over the years who fought there and are still not the same after it. And I have friends who are kids of people who had to evacuate Vietnam. I’m not sure exactly why. But I find person-to-person combat games set in Vietnam, Mogadishu, and Iraq unappealing, and somewhat disturbing.

Is it because it’s too fresh in the memory? Is it because these wars weren’t as clear-cut “keep evil from dominating the world” as WW2 was? It it because teens are playing Gulf War I shooters when there are bodies from Gulf War II not even buried yet? I dunno.

And it’s a double-standard. I don’t have a problem with flight sims in these eras. They’re more “jousts” – men in their machines fighting to the death in a test of mastery of craft. If the games involved laying down napalm or dropping COMMANDO VAULT daisy cutter bombs on troop formations, I doubt I’d be interested.

Anyway, just curious if anyone else just isn’t enthralled with the idea of taking on the Viet Cong in a “game.”

Should Novalogic be allowed to make Black Hawk Down? Absolutely. Should they have actually done it? I’m not so sure.

Discuss. :)

And mind you, this isn’t part of an anti-violence-in-games stance. I’ll go on record saying I got a kick out of the Postal 2 demo, although that was a clear case of the demo providing plenty to satisfy my curiousity and my having no desire to buy the rest of the amazingly shallow game.

But I find person-to-person combat games set in Vietnam, Mogadishu, and Iraq unappealing, and somewhat disturbing.

You’re weird.

How is this different from war games, movies or books about recent conflicts?

I mean, would you really want to live in a world without Black Hawk Down? :D

Wumpus,

Coming from you, I take that as a high compliment. :)

Jakub,

Surely you’re not comparing a first-person shooter to reading a book about actual events.

I can see the opinion that its a little unsettling for people who are old enough to remember the events the game is based on. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a WWII vet not like a shooter such as MOH(even though it is pretty arcade like).

But I think your making the line fuzzy by saying a flight sim is ok but a FPS about Vietnam isn’t.

Sure I am.

I mean, is a book any less exploitive of the subject matter? Most books about recent events are quite biased, with a clear social or political agenda. Just because garbage is peddled in a four thousand year old form of communication doesn’t mean it’s better garbage.

I kind of know what you are saying Denny. If I was to get ultra picky/sensitive, I would say games like GTA3 or even postal2 bother me less than games about WWII or other real battles. For me, in the long run neither really bother me but there is something slightly unsettling about trivializing events that still live in your memory.

Like abortion, I feel bad I don’t feel bad.

Chet

Well the book Blackhawk Down is a work of journalism. It’s not a fictionalized or novelized account of Mogadishu. The only real bias it contains comes from the agendas of the soldiers and Somalis who were interviewed for the book and I’d give Bowden high marks for keeping the book level and fair throughout. In other words, don’t confuse it with the fictionalized story-arc laden yet based on some facts (and very good) movie.

Anyway, Jakub’s point makes more sense if he means the movie, I think. There were plenty who expressed concern that they were making a big Hollywood war movie about Blackhawk Down. And it’s easy to get all thrilled watching BHD and forgetting about all the real people who died.

To Denny I’d ask if there’s a statute of limitations here. 'Nam was a good 30 years ago and it’s been about 27 years since the first Viet Nam war film. When can we play a game about it? So long as the games are done with respect (for the soldiers, the facts, and even the enemy), I don’t see a problem with making games about modern or recent wars. I also don’t see much difference between a flight sim and an FPS, either, if both are based on real and recent events.

PS: Suddenly I’m thinking about Alda:
Comedy = Tragedy + Time

I think part of it can be a desire to have an impact. I know I’ve talked to enough people who wished they could help more with things like the war in Iraq, sometimes even talking about enlisting.

Playing a game where you’re a squad leader taking out enemy positions could help with that desire, though it wouldn’t really benefit anyone but you. Not everyone can be a soldier, pilot, policeman, what have you.

Historical conflicts also offer ready-made “what-if?” scenarios, which can sometimes be more interesting, easier to relate to, and easier to put together than something like overthrowing Gramthor, the evil dictator of planet Purple.

Well, collecting items to send to soldiers stationed in Iraq and Kuwait, or volunteering at a veterans home or hospital, or participating in charity runs, etc. to raise money to send aid to the Iraqi populace, would have a direct impact on those involved in the war. That’s a pretty sorry excuse to play 3D shooters – if they feel they’re not helping, there’s plenty they can do to help.

Of course, it’s one thing to play games based on a war. It’s quite another to play games when you’re supposed to be deciding whether or not to go to war.

People are people, Denny. Volunteering, etc. doesn’t do much to satisfy a “I feel kind of helpless, and things are out of my control” situation.

Sure, it’d be great if more people got involved, but you’ll always have to overcome both inertia and the individual Id.

There are also other reasons for these games, one of which I brought up in my other post.

Heh, I’ve read that article on Helleland.

Volunteering, etc. doesn’t do much to satisfy a “I feel kind of helpless, and things are out of my control” situation.

I’m not trying to sound righteous, but I couldn’t disagree more. Since 9/11, I’ve made a few efforts to get off my ass and get involved. It’s really gratifying to see what a difference you can make, no matter how small the difference. If anything, it demonstrates that you’re not, in fact, helpless.

ObOnTopicReference: I think one of my recent CGM columns was on the topic Denny raises, albeit in the usual oblique ‘what the hell is he trying to say?’ way. I think my point was that I agree with what Denny is saying.

 -Tom

I think the problem is treating recent highly-charged events (Columbine, Mogadishu, Iraq, whatever) in anything but a extremely serious manner. No one complained about the Black Hawk Down film, really; it treated the subject well. What do you think would have happened if it’d ended up as a revenge flick where the US sends in a special forces squad to kill everyone who’d shot at a US soldier? I think that’s where games, in general, are at. People wouldn’t protest a serious treatment of Columbine in a game - but some dork who just whips off a map of it where you can run around indiscriminately shooting people? There’s a difference.

I haven’t picked up Vietcong because I really don’t want to shoot computerized Vietnamese - the war was an immoral endeavor in practice, and it’s just disturbing (for me) to simulate fighting it. I couldn’t take playing the Axis in BF1942 anymore after reading Goldhagen’s book; FPSs are just too visceral a experience, and I can’t disassociate my cartoony Axis soldier gunning down people from the history.

Contrast this with the Panzer General series, which I love. They’re just puzzle games with a military veneer, blood-free and full of abstract pieces moving around terrain hexes. For some reason I don’t feel bad at all for cackling in glee when I wipe out the Norwegian air defenses, or cut off and destroy a tank. I’m not visualizing people dying; it’s about as bloodthirsty as a card game.

It’s all about context and distance, I guess.

No one complained about the Black Hawk Down film, really; it treated the subject well. What do you think would have happened if it’d ended up as a revenge flick where the US sends in a special forces squad to kill everyone who’d shot at a US soldier?

You’d have to play all the way through the single player game to realize this, but the Novalogic game ends with a one-man commando raid, three years after the US pulls out, to assassinate Aidid and then cover it up as a heart attack. The real Aidid, of course, died of a heart attack at that time.

I haven’t picked up Vietcong because I really don’t want to shoot computerized Vietnamese - the war was an immoral endeavor in practice, and it’s just disturbing (for me, at least) to simulate it.

Bad call, Jason. Vietcong is remarkably respectful of its subject matter and easily the best computer simulation of a wartime firefight.

 -Tom

Maybe so, but I’m not pulling the trigger.

It’s a valid point, and I’m not disagreeing with you Tom (or Denny), volunteering can be extremely fulfilling. I’m just saying it may not address a feeling of lack of control, at least not for everyone. It’s also certainly much easier to boot up a game and go to town, not that it helps society as a whole. That was the point of the inertia/id comment.

I play these games more for the “what if?” and accurate/familiar equipment aspects, at any rate, as I’ve put my time in as a soldier.

Interesting point, Jason. I’d have to agree that I’m not interested in playing a game based on real events if it’s not respectful of the men and women involved in a conflict.

I played so much Desert Combat during this recent war I find I can’t really agree with Denny’s sentiment. Even though I do understand where he’s coming from… particularly the part where he mentions friends who were in Viet Nam. I played Desert Combat during this war all the time. It was like some sort of therapy. It just felt right (<- not the exact word I want) to live it in a limited way while not watching it on the news and reading about what led to it in Pollack’s book. Then again, when I play WWII games, I invariably think of my grandfathers. So maybe that applies as well.

Off-topic but kind of on-topic considering Jason’s post, what do you guys think of the Axis not having the Swastika in BF:1942. On the one hand it really bothers me for a variety of reasons, but then again I don’t really want to be on the side that sports the Swastika even if it’s in BF:1942 terms. I prefer playing as Axis, but that’s mainly because I like the Stg.

Line of Sight is also a good, if much more limited, re-creation of 'Nam era warfare. I prefer it to VietCong but more for game-style reasons than anything having to do with quality. Line of Sight is a tense stealth game in what looks to me like a very realistic Southeast Asian jungle. More simmy than action packed.

Sales in Germany would have been a big fat zero with the Swastika, because that’s forbidden by German law. I suppose EA could have done two completely different art sets, but I don’t see it as necessary. I mean, it’s not like you’re trying to simulate the defense of Arnhem by the 9th & 10th SS Panzer divisions in any sort of realistic way in the Arnhem scenario.

The situation gets more complex with games that do try to replicate historical events. Even the SS lightning bolts are, I believe, illegal in Germany, which creates a problem in some WW2 simulations.

As ever,

Loyd Case

The swastika is also Nazi-identified in a way nothing else in the game could be. You might as well slap a “jew killer” label on the uniform right below it.