Saturday, November 04, 2006

World War II As The Last "Good" War

I reguarly surf the various "game" sites-I'm a huge fan of Gamespot, and not just because a friend of mine works there, either. A few others include Gamespy, and 1UP.com, which I reguarly look at and check on. One of the ones that I occasionally glance at is GameTrailers.com, whom have all the neat collected video game trailers that I love looking at. Not a lot of the "pure" Japanese game trailers, sad to say, but I have enough to look at.

While there, I got to look at the newest EA game being developed, Medal Of Honor: Airborne. Watching it is stark, stark...scary and yet...thrilling, all at the same time. I want to play this game...more than I would ever want to play a game set, for example, in Vietnam or the nasty and dirty streets of Fallujah, where you can never quite be sure who the bad guys are. Or praying that shooting the eight-year old kid that picks up the AK-47 and points it your way won't show up on al-Jazeera, without the kid picking up the AK-47.

In the American consiousness, World War II is the last "good" war we had. One where the feelings were unambiguous, and not very revisionist. We barely remember the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 (to be fair-without Googling it, how much do you remember of it?), the Civil War is still fought over and debated about it's merits to this day, World War I is a bare historical memory. Korea and Vietnam and the Gulf War are all nasty little ambiguous wars that really don't have a good history for and to them. Vietnam, especially-which was an absolute and total cluster-fuck from beginning to end. Proving, if anything ever did, that upper managment needs to get a good idea of conditions on the ground, from people that are eating the dogfood, before deciding to do anything.

(That, and it confirms that saving the French, as anything but a side-effect, is never a good idea.)

But World War II was as unambiguous on the surface as it could get. The Japanese attacked us-and did so much damage that we had to respond. The Nazis were as perfect an embodiment of Evil in human flesh as you could get. It seemed as if a new dark age was coming, and the lights were slowly being extinguished in Asia and Europe. It could be-and it did become-effectively a crusade. It was a war that we could fight and win on the basis of morality alone-England, the older brother that we occasionally got into squabbles with, needed our help. France was under the Nazi heel, and the Germans were killing everybody in Russia to make way for their colonists. Japan was an alien foe, totally without honor that subjected our honorably surrendered solders to terrible atrocities.

There is a reason why so many games are set in World War II. And, by the words of game creators, other games are inspired by World War II. There are "good guys" and "bad guys"-the bad guys all wear black and you know which ones you're to shoot and which ones you aren't to shoot. Easy enough, in many ways.

Of course, the war is a lot more complicated (and, half of the problems that caused it can be, once again, laid at the feet of the French), and there's a lot of "dark" even in World War II. Some of it can be justified. Some of it makes sense when you know all the facts. Some of it...can't be. Ever.

Still, it's considered the last "good" war, and fodder for a lot of games, books, and other materials.

And I wish they would choose something else to use as their template for the next, oh, few hundred games...

8 comments:

Will said...

WWII has definitely become "over-used" as a backdrop for games.

Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault was fantastic, but it cut-off at Tarawa. On the one hand I wish they'd make an expasion. The Pacific island-hopping campaign is one theater that hasn't been redone over and over again. On the other hand, I'm glad they haven't, because recreating Iwo Jima and Okinawa just seems wrong on so many levels.

zakueins said...

It would seem wrong, as Okinawa would have some nasty things happening (the jumpers from the cliffs, trying to escape from the Americans that were coming to eat them...)

I would love to see more of the Eastern Front-kind of like watching pro wrestling (there's bad guys and worse guys, and you're not sure who to root for...), but it would be interesting.

Will said...

I think it was one of the expansions for MoH:Allied Assualt that allowed you to play as a Soviet conscript for a a few levels. Call of Duty also had a segement on the Eastern Front, if memory serves.

It was a little surreal playing through those areas. The Moisin-Nagant they portray is nothing like the mil-surplus M44 I have. The bolt doesn't work nearly as smooth as they show in-game. After every shot I have to slap the bolt 3-4 times to get it to release. I just kept thinking of all the poor bastards who must have got plugged while trying to chamber their next round.

zakueins said...

And don't forget the other fun of World War II on the Eastern Front, where soliders early in the war had to collect weapons from the dead on the battlefield, because they wern't issued any...or NKVD "special troops" that would shoot people if they tried to retreat or were "defeatist"...

Andy said...

Actually, Call of Duty had a Stalingrad scene with both of those elements. You wouldn't think that spending 10-15 minutes unarmed in a first-person shooter would be that interesting, but it was scripted really well.

Mitch H. said...

The more likely you are to remember anything from the War of 1812 (or, even better, the Mexican War, which participant Grant described in his memoirs as "one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation"), the less likely you are to regard WWII as exceptional in any moral sense. The War of 1812 was probably less popular in New England than the current wars are in that section of the country today. Nobody's actually managed to convene a modern-day Hartford Convention to threaten secession, at least not yet.

And yes, I did cheat & google that Grant quote, but only because I didn't want to leave a paraphrase...

zakueins said...

Thanks for the quote, and the Mexican War was one of those kinds of conflicts that nations tend to get into-neither side is right, just one side shoots better than the others.

The lovely irony of the war is that the junior officers that fought that war became the senior officers that fought in the Civil War.

Mitch H. said...

The really ugly irony of the Mexican War was the collection of wrong lessons those junior officers learned from that war which got them into so many nasty situations when erroneously mapped to the big game fifteen-some years later. That is, if you buy the Jamieson/McWhiney thesis from Attack and Die. Particularly the way that various officers concluded from the Mexico City campaign that well-trained infantry could storm well-manned field fortifications if properly led.