Friday, July 13, 2012

the problem with FPS

When I first explained FPS games to my grandfather, a colonel in the US Army, he scoffed.  "You only have one life son.  And to survive a war you cannot lose it."  This has stuck with me through the years.  While others had made fun of me for my pride behind 6 ko's in a game, although with no death, I remembered the advice of my grandfather.  While a game allows you to practice strategies, in war death is final and no checkpoint exists.

Call of Duty is one of the most successful games in history, but if I am allowed an infinite of deaths it loses its attempt of meaning.  Call of Duty, just the title, attempts to evoke a power of meaning behind the struggle of good and evil.  Yet, in consideration of my grandfathers advice it loses it.  For my grandfather war was not a game, it was a struggle of live and death with an enemy as intelligent (if not more) than your own.  In war one fights the perfect foe: another human.  The greatest game, the most dangerous game.

Call of Duty, Battlefield, Medal of Honor, even the Halo games attempt to invoke a sense of power and purpose behind the game.  Yet with the idea of powerups, checkpoints, and other basic video game additions the art of war is lost on a generation.  For many the basic fundamentals of war are no longer basic: with the rise of education the idea of just following orders has become an invalid excuse (I blame the Nuremberg Trails but with no approval of the NAZIS).  Youth understand the importance, and the pride, behind giving one's life for country but they don't understand what it means to "only regret that I have but one life to give for my country." (RIP Nathan Hale).

The youth don't know the regret that Mr. Hale speaks of.  Their regret is one of not being able to ace the game.  Not the regret that they could not give the total 100% that the human mind and body can give to an idea.  That is the problem I have with strategic games in general.  It is impossible to convey the message that one life is actually one life, with out making the game nigh impossible.  In the video era to create an equal of this meaning would be: buy a $100 video game and only have one chance to beat it.  If the game is that of super mario I say alright, but COD?  If you ever meet a man who beat the recent installment of COD first try with one life then you have found: 1 a lier, 2 the best thumb reflexes in humans.

To fight  is human, to win is divine.  That has been spoken in some form throughout human history.  What it does not tell is that to win one must live.  It is easy to play a game and die a thousand times; it is hard to fight "the good fight" for what is believed in and win with one's life.  The winner is victorious: the one's that write history are those who win.  In human history, in human war, the winners never had the basics of modern FPS.  There are no save points, no powerups, no perfect wins.  War is fought by man for man, and because of this somebody always dies and somebody always survives.

I will admit a bias: I come from a military family.  Even though many of my family are officers, the majority did not start that way.  My grandfather enlisted and fought through WW2 before commission.  I agree that a majority of the "upper class" (ie officers) tend to neglect casualties; but my family has taught me the importance of life.  It is easy to send a man to his death, it is harder to walk towards death yourself.  Only after believing an idea, making it part of one's self is an individual able to give up their life.  I have no memory where the quote comes from: "For a human to commit suicide they must already be dead inside."  Yet to die for an idea an individual is not dead yet, they are willing to die in what they believe in.  They are so sure in their idea, they know that their death is justification for that belief.

That is the core belief in the military tradition of my family: If you are not willing to die for the beliefs and thoughts that are your own how can you send another?

The problem with modern video games is that they lose this meaning while portraying it.  COD uses powerful quotes and epic story lines to create a feeling of righteousness.  Yet, they allow you to attempt a thousand times the storm of (insert here the end of the map).  In the real world, as a solider, you feel righteous before, during, and after the death of those oppose you.  And if you survive you more than feel, you know that righteousness deep down in your soul.

My grandfather fought and won for the side of United States of America and the freedoms and liberty it represents, and because of that he knows in his soul what he believes: because he bet his life.