The video game market is rife of modern-day shooters, games based on military-like situations and scenarios. Shooters have never interested me, as a gamer, but this past summer, I stopped to take notice of one shooter, Spec Ops: The Line. When I hear about Call of Duty, Battlefield or any game like that, I turn off, mentally. Ive seen them played, watched YouTube videos and never seen anything substantive. When the argument begins that games like Call of Duty are desensitising people, I always want to counter with, have you played the game, because if you had, while it may be realistic, it is a game with a bare-bones story, most of the time.
I may be acting like an elitist, but to me, story is key, in any and all games. If the focus of a military shooter, like Call of Duty, is the multiplayer, which it sounds like it is from what I hear and read, then story is meaningless. That being said, and hold onto those turnips before you throw them, the game is just for having fun. It isnt about seeing another human and killing them and gleefully celebrating your success because it was a real person. The whole focus of games is to take you away from your day-to-day life and experience something you may not want to experience first-hand, but might enjoy.
Despite all that, the one military style shooter I did partake was the aforementioned Spec Ops: The Line. The literal line between garden variety shooters like Call of Duty pale in comparison to this game on story alone. Without spoiling the plot greatly, the premise of the story is a small group of soldiers are dropped into Dubai where a general has gone rogue, forcing his troops to take over the city. The game forces you, as the gamer, to make morality choices, consequence unknown until the end of the game. Again, not to spoil, but the story was pulled straight from the pages of Joseph Conrads Heart of Darkness, later turned into a movie, Apocalypse Now.
In Spec Ops: The Line, there was little separating the gamer from the experience and horror of war. The game play itself was not significantly different, but the set-pieces and decisions made were ones that you would expect to see in a real-life military situation. The one that always sticks out for me is where you must decide if you want to put someone out of his misery by shooting him or letting the nearby flames burn him alive. Neither choice is preferable, but a choice must be made. It is in this rare instance that I would say that, yes, this game blurs the line dangerously between reality and fiction, but does so in a way that makes me as a person, more aware of the tragedy of war.
The topic of Spec Ops: The Line may not have been pulled right from the pages of the current news, but the idea isnt far off. Many of the modern-day shooters do take liberties with their topics, making them more political than perhaps they need to, but if it resonates with the gamer (read: sells more copies) then they will do that. The goal for any game, to me, should be to bring some enjoyment to a gamers life and also open his/her mind to something different. In the case of Spec Ops: The Line, I was sufficiently surprised by the ending and the nature of the narrative. In true form, a good game makes me thoughtful, and this game achieved that. I wish I could say all military-based shooters did this, but Ive no doubt they dont, or the audience isnt always receptive to it.
There is a greater responsibility nowadays for game publishers to be aware that kids are getting their hands on these games and think there are no consequences to their actions. While we can all agree parents shouldnt let little Johnny buy Call of Duty with his allowance, a discussion on parenting might devolve into an all-out brawl. Games are meant to be fun, they are meant to be a diversion. In that diversion, there can be a story, an idea, something to take away. In Spec Ops: The Line, the takeaway focused on the consequences to the choices you make in a terrible situation. Sometimes the options arent great, the outcomes worse, but you must still make a choice. I dont find fault in what Spec Ops: The Line, but I cant say the same for any other military-style games.
the generic WW2 shooters paled for me awhile backbut I've always been interested in a stealthy game like one of the Sam Fishers or Lara Croft.
having Dubai for a locale does raise my interest though. I've never quite been there but I have been very near.
I truly appreciate that Spec Ops The Line set out to have the gamers experience something more profound than the run-of-the-programming FPS's saturating the market but the lack of authenticity in such a war game at some point made me feel like all those exotic set pieces and environment to set up the storyline were all a big fluff to masquerade its self-important, lofty messages about how "real-life" war sucks. For example, (spoilers) the US somehow abandons an entire decorated battalion and declares it renegade, which leads to the little dictatorship in Dubai and all hell breaks loose. This simply wouldn't happen, and same goes for a small group of three mere operatives not even big enough to form a basic squad going in and wiping the crap out of everything that moves just so the game can tell you how much of a vicious and immoral bastard you are through out the whole thing. Spec Ops still makes the mistake of trying to satisfy shooter needs by having the action shooter cliches of one single guy or squad being in an impossible situation and still kicking all the baddies' asses all because of incompetence from the higher-ups. And the result for me at least, is you don't feel too much like a vulnerable soldier in a battlefield of grey choices and difficult dilemmas like Apocalypse Now, but only something of that nature superimposed upon an average third person shooter.
@rollerloller though it does end up paying homage to the roots of a the shooter game, and is based off of implausible circumstances, I still found the narrative very, very compelling.
@pokecharm The game could be a screen flashing "WAR IS BAD" for five seconds then credits start rolling and the message would still be the same. Of course nothing wrong with the narrative but if you were gonna deliver your message on something very real with plenty of consultants around to help you with it, that narrative can't just be based on make believe artsy-fartsy lalaland. World War Z does a good job of explaining how everything realistically breaks down and does not suffer for it, the opposite in fact.
^^ its always only close to realism with obvious not pointing out all facts of war. On the one hand i can understand the publishers cause if it would be too realistic i think ppl wont play it anymore cause it would be to how to say horrorfying. For example i think there would for sure be an other feeling when there would be lying half limbs of bodys on the floors for example but well war isnt without blood and pain.
I didnt played spec ops but there where some shooters in the past which tried to transport the feeling of the cruel hard war it is outside.
We need to make a short time travel here to the origins of military shooters :)
The first military shooters where made to train real soldiers to pull the trigger more faster. Without hesitating and thinking just pull and kill. To reach this target sure it wouldnt be helpful to visual the cruel side of war. The first ones aint had blood at all it was just more a bot to shoot not a person.
In addition the sales would drop if they show that side to some of the audiance (i will only slightly mention those 14 year old kids in CoD here ^^ but that would be too much for them)
Still idk im a shooter since day one i guess cause i mostly played them all. For me it doesnt even have the visuals or the cruel effects to give me a feeling that war is hard and cruel.
:) like in bf for example i always have the feeling in multiplayer which should be always transportet:
No matter what you do sooner or later you will die ^^ which is a pretty bad feeling since we all know there is no reset in real live.
Good blog :) blog on
oh and you tricked me with your title ^^ cause i was an hardcore fan of the game series "Eye of the Beholder" lol ^^^
Indeed. Spec Ops' story was something special. It effectively took the generally generic military shooter story, turned it on its head and forced the player to consider just what they've been doing. Basically you, the player, are a horrible person for what you're doing.
Sadly other shooters can't be bothered to take that angle. Warfighter's entire thing is 'shoot the guys with the turbans until you win' which is quite worrisome.
@Katzenbalger that's what I loved about it - it made me really, really think! I didn't think I was a horrible person, just a confused one. I didn't blame him for the outcome, he was a victim of circumstance.
games today aren't the same as the games yesterday(except for some)...
the last time I've played spec ops was in ps1 and its just shoot anyone that tries to kill you and get the mission done, that's just it...but today in order to have a good game you gotta have a story(be it interesting or almost non-existent) that would really stick close to a gamer's heart otherwise it would just be mindless fun(or boring)..I don't mean it in a bad way...but this one claims to be a different shade than any other of its class...
it's also available in PC, yey for me...
there are few games that are really games(in a sense) like Super Mario :)
I've played COD 4 and Black Ops but to this day I have no idea what those games are about. The stories in those games made little to no sense.
Spec Ops however, is something that I have my eye on. I read an excellent piece on how the devs sought to make this a game that had the player question the choices they make; a slow mad descent into the hell that is called war. Few games in the whole of gaming do things like that; never mind FPS games.
One thing I liked was in that piece, the devs stated that they explicitly hated putting MP in the game. They were forced to do so by the publishers. This was the greatest regret that the devs had as the focus into MP decreased the quality time spent into SP.
If only FlipKart would lower prices; I'd be all over this game.
@fend_oblivion I couldn't have said it better myself :)
you should play it! it was quite good! that doesn't surprise me, now that I read it - I didn't even know there was MP - I don't bother with that stuff. When it does drop, I hope you get it!
@pokecharm Looks like they're going to make a book that does a critical analysis on the story and gameplay :
It releases on November 21 :)
100 percent agree with you. Spec Ops the line was a breath of fresh air in a genre where we are basically getting the same thing in every war game. The SP I would rank one of the greatest SP I have played . The story starts out like a typical shooter and then as you keep going in it shows what true horror war is and how it effects everyone Victor and Loser alike. What I didnt like about the game was that the game needed polish the shooting was average they could have made something like 1 hit 1 kill, no huds, bullet fall( see BF3) in hard mode. And lastly I hated the MP and believe it shouldnt have been in the game at all.
I agree with you 100% that games need story and characters that can hold that story up to stand out with me and be fondly remembered. Military Shooters, for the most part do not interest me because of that. Call of Duty, Battlefield, it's all about multiplayer, leveling up etc etc. While they do technically have a single player experience and some of them can be decent, they dont strive for something different or meaningful because they know 95% of their audience wants to do the multiplayer. SO: The Line I've heard about and have played a demo for. It's a shame it got labeled as a CoD clone and thus tossed under the bus, as most people I've talk to who have played it loved it for it's deeper take on the story and the strong emotional overtones. On the topic of violence and kids... i think it should be up to the parent to decide if the child can handle it on a intellectual level. I read a blog post from a parent once that allowed his 4yo son play GTA (forget which one), but did so while sititng with him, explaining that this wasnt real life, that those werent people being hurt and wouldnt let him continue until he understood that. As they played, the child seemed to understand those kind of boundaries, but would also do things that surprised the father, stuff like letting people cross the street (instead of plowing into them) and finding cars that were empty (not wanting to steal cars from people driving them). He discussed his surprise with his sons behavior and ended with the idea that kids are a lot more receptive to reality vs made up reality and that with proper guidance, can be shown just that in video games. Problem is, most parents are lazy and just throw a game at their kids and get upset if they see mature content in it.
@hush404 that's an interesting blog you're referencing! if you find it, do share a link! I can't imagine playing a game like that with my kid, if I had kids, but that's a dialogue for another day ;) I'm not big on Shooters, so I can't say much about them, really ;)
I want to add that only 4 devs ( that i know of) seems to understand what shooters is all about. Crytek, GG, Epic and EA with their dead space. it was EA right? hehe
The one important thing they have incommon was the impact bullets had on the enemys, and it made a lot of diference where u shot the enemy.. wich made it very fun to Shoot wich is why u play shooters...:)
But i must also add that i think dead space did it best, it added alot of strategy aswell. with the many ways u could kill an enemy and they had diferent enemys wich made it alot more fun.
@rannoni EA being good at something does feel weird to say, doesn't it ;) Dead Space doesn't get enough credit, if you ask me - the story was a little off, but the game play was intense and made for a really terrifying atmosphere!
there are so many military shooters that everytime a new one comes out i dont watch any trailer or any gameplay at all... i just dont care for those games anymore. But i was exited about spec ops... But found the gameplay alittel boring. But at least they had a good idea...
I like military shooters but it is very unfortunate that this genre among some others has almost no care for story, and its not because of multiplayer, with the resources a campaign COD or BF3 needs you can easily cut down a bit in set pieces and scripted events and make a good story, its just a different mood, different goal and target audience i suppose.
Shooters are action games, and as most action games, immediate audiovisual satisfaction and competition are the main goal to achieve, but every feature thats really good and doesnt go against the main goal can work well in any genre or type of game, and story is no exception.
I have not played spec ops the line yet, but i played Ace Combat 5, not a military shooter but all about war, and its story and characters were unforgettable, i was looking at the credits rolling and thinking, this game didnt even full had dialogue choices, no character creation, no branching storyline, no moral choices that affect the outcome, just a linear regular campaign with some cutscenes, like most FPS have.
When the story is good and its told properly, simpleness or lack of originalty is not a problem, just like in Mafia 1, Most shooters from today could have good or acceptable stories with no huge gameplay changes if they would've actually cared about it.
I also think that in in this times games make a good story expendable way too much, cause shooters are mostly multiplayer like i said but im seeing some games and genres that focus mainly in single player and still dont care much for the story, like God of War, Darksiders, Assassins Creed, Saints Row, Dead Space, Resident Evil, etc.
And even some RPGs or games with RPG elements like Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Fallout and Elder Scrolls, Rage.
So much missed potential.
@yeah_28 I'd be careful grouping AC with no story there, but otherwise, I'm with you :) shooters are missing an opportunity to be so much more!
@pokecharm For me, except in AC2, desmond is the main interest, and thats exactly why i think it lacked cohesion and a good pace, im not one of those who dont give a damn about desmond, its just that the games themselves seem to not really try to make Desmond's sections important.
The side activities in Bortherhood were pretty good, i agree with that.
@yeah_28 I actually liked Brotherhood the most, but I did like all the 'other' activities...
the Desmond stuff is bringing the story together though, just so you know ;)
@pokecharm Yeah its a thin line with that one, AC2 for me had a good story overall, but the others didnt, maybe AC1 was kinda ok.
And the desmond parts are few, short and almost nothing important happens except in the start and the ending.
To be honest if they would've been all like AC2 i wouldn't mention the series as an example of this.
Didnt played AC3 by the way.
A good story is a feature that should be part of the basics in a modern videogame, it can improve almost all kinds of games, like when we talked about progression and achievements, how every game has it today cause its a cheap way to add more "entertainment", an acceptable story should as well be in almost all games.
Hmm... Great topic. I would agree that story is important sometimes to "taking something away" from the game, but not always. It is true, I would argue, that military shooters a la CoD and BF3 are more like Hockey with guns - at least the multiplayer aspect - and further agree these two game examples are all about the multiplayer (In fact BF3 was the first in the Battlefield franchise to even have a single player component at all). From a purely socio-psychological standpoint, I believe the point of those games is to activate the parts of the brain that respond to adaptive teamwork and reaching hard-fought objectives for their own sake and not for some over-arcing story structure, i.e. the same joy someone might get when scoring a touchdown in football after a well executed team effort. It's about the plays, the evolving strategies (or lack thereof), and the real-time problem-solving dynamics involved. They're not meant to be immersive or mature, thoughtful commentaries about war and strife. They're about scoring that next goal, making that well-executed pass, or adjusting your tactics on the fly so your team can win the match - in other words, social dynamic adaptation. That's not to say that military shooters cannot be or shouldn't be immersive experiences or thoughtfully constructed narratives, however. Indeed, Spec Ops: the Line, as you rightly pointed out, is a good example of just that. I would also argue that DayZ might fit into the "thoughtful, immersive experience" shooter camp, despite its complete lack of pre-constructed narrative by placing players in do or die situations that will have you question your own humanity with every encounter. That said however, both styles can be meaningful and cater to important evolutionary psycho-social reward brain processes. In this sense, you are right that BF3/CoD are more 'visceral' experiences so to speak, but I believe they can be enjoyed equally once appreciated within this appropriate socially and psychologically adaptive context. It is in this vein that I can enjoy the masterful and artistic use of cinematography in Apocalypse Now to convey a thoughtful narrative on humanity's all-too-easy descend-ability to barbarity when opportunity permits it or if context appears to require it - just as much as I can appreciate the carefully executed plays and dynamic strategies employed in a well-played hockey match that leads to a win. In either case, I "take away" equally meaningful experiences that say something about human nature and our efforts to understand - and adapt to - a dynamic environment.
@KillaGinjaNinja what you say makes a ton of sense, but how does that premise come into play for, say a kid, who probably shouldn't be playing the game? I am with you that it is should be about working together, but do you think kids see that?
@pokecharm Ok so we approached the "can non-narrative based multiplayer military shooters provide a meaningful and not simply diversionary game experience?" to which I answered 'yes'. Now lets broach this secondary topic (so many excellent topics!) of "can kids grasp this ephemeral meaning?". A fair question, but on the other hand do you think a kid really understands the finer nuances of narrative in a game like Spec Ops or a movie like Apoc Now? In all these cases, I suppose what it boils down to it the level of maturity and amount of parental guidance involved. My concern with kids would be with any military shooter (narrative-driven, multiplayer or otherwise), or indeed with any mature-themed games. It's a tightrope that parents must walk and for better or for worse, it is to them that I must defer. Ultimately, it is only the parents that are in a position to make judgements about their child's maturity level, their cognitive abilities, and resultant access to adult-themed content. It is an incredible responsibility that I am afraid many parents do not take seriously enough.
@KillaGinjaNinja I always hope the parents do, but I see too often kids that are too young playing games that are hardly appropriate...but it is a discussion for another day, I hope it becomes a chalk talk at some point!!
I don,t know if it is that much important to have an "experiance" and be realistic and have real consequences of our actions ... I mean it is a game ... when I was young, a game was just that a game ... you didn't experience it, you play it ... quite different from what it is nowaday in the shooter scene.
I play a game to have fun and escape reality for a few min/hours not to feel bad for someone that I shoot in the head because now his wife is alone with 3 kids that miss their dad.
I did a genocide once in Fallout3, I killed every human in the game to have the trophy for the number of human killed ... of course the game didn,t allow me to murder the kids ( which would have helped me to get the trophy ). I didn't feel bad. It is only a game and I wanted the Trophy. The rest of the game I couldn't do otherwise then help everyone.
If they don't put any sensitive to somewhat give the feeling what you do is right ( even if it really subjective ... What I consider right may be very wrong to you ) and also to make a story not just go out in a world and shoot everything that as the misfortune to move. I mean ... if the princess wasn,t kidnapped in every Super Mario Game ... why botter going through all of it ?
If in Heavy Rain Sean wasn't kidnapped ... Ethan wouldn't do all those very extrem challenge for fun ... a game with Ethan just depressing because he lost on of his child ... would have been boring and not a captivating story.
So in all ... a game is a game and it shouldn't be exacly like real life and it is ok , of course some game is inspired by real life event but still, it is more of a glorified fantasy and should stay one.
@Coco_pierrot my experience with shooters is limited, so I may have spoken out of my own preconceived notions. Yes, a game is a game, but is there some need to respect the material, or the people you're creating a game about? I mean, the kind of funny thing about the whole discussion, I find, is I have a friend who is in the army and loves Halo and Call of Duty, doesn't have an issue with and he is out there, literally on the front lines. Perhaps that should have been the route I took with this blog....
My experience with Shooter is also limited but I guess I understand what you say. When making a military shooter, at least make it in a way that it will respect the real people who went to war.
I have been cared away in Heavy Rain the first time I played it and it never happened before. But, still, I feel like a game is just a game no matter what they are trying to do or what they are claiming to be. Because it isn,t like they are trying to sensitize people of the reality of war... they are selling a glorified heroic warfare, a big fantasy like we see so much in movies.
The only time I saw a video game that was just so wrong on all level was : Manhunt ... which got banned in many countries ... which was way too violent ... it was so brutal and done without any taste, it wasn't a glorified heroic warfare.
@Coco_pierrot I think Manhunt is the exception to most games ;)
Personally, yes, as an adult, I know that the shooter games are just that, but I think a lot of people don't see it that way too.
all the neighbors kids that I know (15 yrs old and down), go absolutely nuts for Call of Duty. They came to play here one day, got online with Black Ops,
and I havent heard language like that since my last guild raid wiped on Arthas years ago. Its crazy.
You might also want to add that do not play Spec Ops if you want to have fun. Because that game is not fun at all, compelling and interesting but not fun or enjoyable. Which in that way, it shows how terrible war is and makes you feel like kind of a terrible person at times. The beginning hours of that game are also not great but without spoiling too much I think it makes more sense when you look at the thing as a whole.
if a game helps people hate war then thats a realy good thing, :) with that said, i am going back to racisim in startcraft 2 and make galactic war on those damn zerg!!!!!
@lim_ak I don't know, even though it had terrible implications, I loved every second of the game - the horror it instilled in me is something I'll never forget. A reason I know I'd never want to enter war myself.
Hmmm, I haven't played Spec Ops, but it is a lofty comparison with the suggestion that the story is reminiscent of Joseph Conrad's "The Heart of Darkness" (incidentally one of my favourite books ever). My interest in the game is now piqued, I have to say.
The Heart of Darkness focuses very much on the duality of human nature, I would find it interesting to see this portrayed in a game. I dismissed Spec Ops as a "play when cheap, if at all game", if you are suggesting that it has ambitions outside of the standard "FPS" fayre, then I might have to elevate it.
@wavey_gravey if you play it, it won't be lofty, it'll be exactly what you see, almost word-for-word ;)
the phrase I'd use is cognitive dissonance ;) play it and get back to me!!