War Games • Page 2

Games have every right to explore modern wars, but they must tread with care.

What a thoroughly depressing attitude for a senior executive in our industry to hold. At its most basic level, it raises questions about how well some people in this market actually understand the concept of a "compelling entertainment experience". Compelling entertainment is compelling exactly because it does make people uncomfortable - because it challenges their perceptions in intelligent ways, because it makes them think, placing them in unfamiliar situations in which their day to day morality and rules don't apply.

Compelling entertainment is something which you're still thinking about hours or days after the experience. Shy away from that, as Mr Crouts seems so keen to do, and you're left with nothing but popcorn - shallow, disposable, forgettable. In their desperation to avoid taking a stance or offending anyone, executives who think in these ways relegate creativity to bland mediocrity.

However, there's something else I find disquieting about Crouts' statement. There is a great deal of media about war, even about wars of the recent past and those still ongoing now. Books, films, music and TV shows which deal with the topics emerging from the War on Terror abound. Even those which don't directly address the war address the issues it has raised - the recently completed Battlestar Galactica, for example, has won widespread acclaim for its nuanced and intelligent handling of issues which mirror those of the War on Terror.

If a game like Six Days in Fallujah is to have any value, it must come from adding something to that discussion. This isn't about taking a pro-war or an anti-war stance - although both are valid starting points, there are countless others. It's about making people think, informing them through their entertainment experiences, and commenting, as creators, on the media we create and the events we portray.

The alternative is that we simply beat our chests and declare that our latest simulation of war is the most accurate yet - championing beautiful graphics, realistic sound, lifelike physics, carefully researched weaponry and uniforms. If we go down this road alone, we are inviting players to turn off their brains and just enjoy the lovely war - and at that point, any moral high ground we may aspire to in debates with the likes of the Daily Mail is lost.

Game developers working on war games need to take a lesson from the creators of books and films on modern warfare. They always have a stance, something to say, a lesson they want the public to learn. This is what makes their work valid and relevant - and what separates it from the shameless war pornography peddled so often by newspapers and TV networks.

If we're just going to get lost in an orgy of tech specs and polygon counts, slapping ourselves on the back over realism without ever considering reality, then perhaps, for all its hypocrisy, the Daily Mail has a point in the end. The "it's just a game" described by Anthony Crouts, which lets people experience war without feeling "uncomfortable", sounds like the most horrific thing I can imagine - the worst variety of war pornography we've yet created.

I don't believe that Six Days in Fallujah will turn out to be remotely as deplorable, nihilistic and pointless as its marketing boss seems to want the world to believe - but if we continue to treat war games as popcorn entertainment which should aspire to nothing greater than giving people a comfy ride through a shattered warzone, it won't be long before we reach those depths. Attitudes need to change in the games industry before we can start changing minds outside.

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Rob Fahey

Rob Fahey



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