Sunday, December 28, 2008

Shooter thoughts

There was a thought provoking comment in yesterday's comments, so I decided to bundle the answer of that one with other thoughts on the shooter genre. The question was whether I, as German national, wasn't having problems with World War II shooters, where the player is killing Germans all the time. Answer: No, not really.

Well, the one thing that is bothering me is that some people could get their history knowledge about that period from this kind of game. Nazi Germany certainly was in need of what nowadays would be called a "regime change", but believing that every German soldier was an evil Nazi personally responsible for the Holocaust is just plain silly. But World War II shooters aren't about history or reality, they are pure fantasy. Just have a look at the facts: There were 100 million soldiers overall participating in WW2. And there were 20 million military casualties, plus 40 million civilian casualties (which includes war crimes, the Holocaust, millions of people dying of disease and starvation in the Soviet Union and China, and the atomic bomb). But if 100 million soldiers kill 20 million soldiers, statistically most soldiers didn't even get one kill in. The number of kills with guns that single characters are depicted of achieving in a shooter game is totally unrealistic. You're killing more enemy soldiers with guns in a single mission than any real soldier did during 6 years of World War II.

Which leads directly to the next thought, of *why* you get so unrealistic high numbers of kills in a WW2 shooter game: Difficulty setting and save/reload. If you want a more realistic view of WW2, you should play on the highest difficulty setting, in a mission you don't know yet, and end the game when you get shot for the first time. Because at that point you're either dead or getting sent home with a serious injury, probably some body parts missing. Call of Duty 2, which I'm playing, has frequent automatic save points, and on easy settings you can withstand several hits before actually going down, which then automatically reloads your game at the last save. Great fun in a game, but nothing at all to do with the real horrors of war. Real war is "long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror", and the shooter games just skip the boredom part and give you several hours of the terror part in much diluted form.

Which brings me to my last thought, the number of hours in a shooter game. Which is typically around 10. In about 10 hours you can play through the whole single player campaign. Which is why this isn't going to be my new hobby, I've spent thousands of hours in World of Warcraft, and a game that is offering tens of hours of entertainment is just a short diversion. As I said, I'm bad a shooters, so I'm playing at low difficulty settings. So playing any of these games in multiplayer would just be an exercise in frustration, which I'm going to spare myself. I want to play Battlefield Heroes when it comes out, but not any of the more serious shooter games in multiplayer. A singleplayer games shooters can be fun, but they are far shorter than MMORPGs.

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