war and game
March 14, 2010 5:09 PM   Subscribe

Imagine a (hypotetical) guy. He loves video-games -including guns shootings blood etc. And he is in the army. There is a war. He is sent to the front. He comes back. Will he keep on playing those video-games ?

I am wondering where is the line between virtuality and real life when it comes to hard experiences.
When we kill someone in a video game we know it's just a game.
But what happens when what was a game ends up being reality, and ends up being a game again? Is it still a game?

PS : pardon my spelling and gramatical mistakes, English isn't my mothertongue
posted by OrangeCat to Society & Culture (14 answers total)
Best answer: All I know is that my dad was in the Korean War, and it was so traumatic that, in common with many veterans, he never talked about his experiences.

However, he watched war films and M*A*S*H with alacrity, had many military history and fiction books on his shelf, and played first-person-shooter arcade games with relish, eagerly inviting me to join him.
posted by tel3path at 5:14 PM on March 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

My brother was a medic in Iraq and saw some crazy stuff. He still avidly plays war-based and first person shooter video games. He avidly played them over there, too.
posted by sickinthehead at 5:15 PM on March 14, 2010

I don't think there is a single answer to this, it is going to depend on the individual. (and, your
English is fine, I wouldn't have known it wasn't your first language)...
posted by HuronBob at 5:41 PM on March 14, 2010

Well, there are times when you "go to war" but don't exactly get the front line experience...so going to a war zone isn't always a stressful experience in the way people imagine that it is. I can't think of a single person I know who was deployed and came back more sensitized to virtual violence. I don't know that I've seen a video game that's realistic enough to really tap into those memories.
posted by _cave at 5:50 PM on March 14, 2010

Best answer: Came here to say sort of what Emanuel said - I'm aware that, prior to the rise of videogames, they actually used modern combat pen and paper role-playing games as part of PTSD group therapy for Vietnam vets with some success.

So clearly there is a therapeutic aspect to gaming simulations of violence and combat, in that they help the soldiers confront their stressful experiences in a more controlled setting, and presumably help desensitize them to their traumatic memories.

But that seems to me a very different thing than playing the games for fun. We play them to increase our exposure to violence and adrenaline in a safe context, not to bring ourselves down safely from the effects of the real thing.

I suspect your hypothetical person might still play them, but that a lot of the enjoyment would be gone. It sort of makes me think of A Clockwork Orange, and how Malcolm McDowell has his beloved Beethoven ruined for him through its association with painful sensations and memories.
posted by Naberius at 6:33 PM on March 14, 2010

Best answer: I teach at an art school. I get students who want to major in Game Design and they are completely immersed in the games to the point that they have no idea how to talk to their classmates. I have seen students who major in it run down the hallway to shoot each other in the game and not talk that much in class. Often, they have very limited social skills.

I have students who just returned from the service and are now seeking a career. These students are most typically very uninterested in war video games. I found the disparity curious enough to ask them. Many of them have said that they find the games unrealistic, the markings incorrect, and not at all like the actual experience. One young woman replied that the responsibility of having and using a gun is not a game, another young man said he was glad to be back home alive and never wanted to think of his experience again.

Just my limited experience as a teacher, but there you go.
posted by effluvia at 7:01 PM on March 14, 2010

Best answer: I've noted that at the Exchange (department store on a military base), Call of Duty and other similar games seem to be featured and selling well.
posted by illenion at 7:11 PM on March 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

In The Hurt Locker, there is a scene where they return to the barracks after battle and start playing a shoot-em-up video game. Yes, it's a fictional movie, but it's based on a reporter's experience in Iraq.
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 7:41 PM on March 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

The skillsets and imagery applied in an FPS shooter are not at all the same as those applied in war. It's like comparing Lunar Lander to the Apollo mission.
posted by furtive at 7:42 PM on March 14, 2010

Best answer: Back in 2004, Bungie employee Frank O'Connor interviewed Sgt. Kelly Hafer about, among other things, the experience of playing games in Iraq:
Bungie.net: So you guys play Halo to RELAX? What are the most popular game types?

Kelly: Yes we loved playing HALO. Most popular were 16 player free for all with rocket in a compact level. :-) Also we enjoyed 4 on 4 in but the most favorite of all near the end was a game we made up called "Vehicle Wars" it is played in the box canyon and the rules are pretty simple. If you are in a vehicle you can only run over people on the ground or ram other vehicles, the only allowed vehicle to vehicle fire that is from the passenger seat of the wart hog against another vehicle with the rocket launcher. If you are on the ground you can engage people in the vehicles but it was a good idea to get in a vehicle to improve your chances.
Kelly later added that the unrealistic nature of the game made it easier to separate from real life.

The Washington Post reported something similar later that year:
Video War Is a Break From the Real Fight

"I don't like to leave the room, if possible," Girardin said, only partially in jest. He spends his days in a large tent as an administrator with the headquarters company of the 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division. "You forget where you are when you're in this room. Then you step outside and the reality hits you. You're in the desert. You're in Iraq. I try not to leave."
MIT echoed that piece, noting that adrenaline-pumping games are more popular than simple time-wasters:
In the Middle of Iraq, it's Gaming, Gaming, Gaming for the American Military

Certainly some games are more popular than others. Few people had purchased the puzzle game "Tetris Worlds" or "The Hobbit," which is aimed at kids. Rows of Nintendo's "Metroid Prime: Echoes" for the GameCube console went untouched, probably because the Xbox and Playstation are far more popular here.

Thirty copies of "Halo 2" disappeared in hours. Some soldiers bought the game even though they didn't even have an Xbox, while others bought an Xbox just so they could play.

But Marines scoff at the idea that games could somehow prepare them for combat in any significant way. In video games, they say, players are generally willing to risk their lives; that wasn't always the case in Fallujah.
Here's one soldier's 2006 blog post about a Halo 2 LAN tournament in Fallujah.

Also, just before Bungie released Halo 3 in 2007 they shipped a few dozen HDTVs, Xbox consoles, and beta copies of the game over to Iraq.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:11 PM on March 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

From personal experience, FPS are very common recreational activities for soldiers in Afghanistan. PS3, XBOX 360 and PC FPS and military simulator titles are all available at the local (in country) PX's - there is a demand as they do not seem to last long (that said I was surprised at the quantity of Guitar Hero / Rock Band titles and peripherals that were also available). Furthermore, there was (not long ago) a Call of Duty 2 (IIRC) multiplayer LAN set up at a major HQ in Afghanistan.
posted by dangerousdan at 3:36 AM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've known a few marines who are avid video gamers. They especially like the realistic war games because they can apply the real world tactics they used to depend on.

Obviously all marines are alike and will react in this way :-P
posted by valadil at 7:18 AM on March 15, 2010

Best answer: Anecdata - of the two combat veterans I know that play Modern Warfare 2 on xbox live, one plays run and gun style - dies and kills often - and seems to think nothing of it. The other, who saw about the same "action" plays very, very conservatively. He is hyper-focused and will not give up cover to attack opponents (camps in secluded spots). He seems to take the game much more seriously and plays more to 'stay alive' than to kill the enemy. When I asked why use this play style, he said he didn't want to get shot. Take that FWIW.
posted by anti social order at 7:47 AM on March 15, 2010

« Older Dot-com-ish   |   I see more than dead people.... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.