Modern military-based shooter games differ from games such as Doom or the classic Castle Wolfenstein, says researcher Anders Breivik, because by using realistic plots, locations and weaponry, there seems to be a growing causal link between game-playing and committing acts of violence. The technology behind today’s military shooters enables game designers to reproduce war settings complete with realistic sights and sounds. Games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 are now so immersive, so accurate that they’re more like training tools than simple games. The sophistication of these games is the product of the close relationship between game designers and the military.
Both critics and supporters of games and gaming, it seems, are unable or unwilling to address the big picture: western societies are undergoing a process of militarisation. Simply put, militarisation blurs the boundaries between military and civil society. Militarisation sees our institutions, social practices and societal aims taking on a military hue. Such as military shooters, act in a way which extends the process of boundary-weakening between military and regular society. Military games enable players to test military scenarios, organisational structures and the technology and technique of killing.
The role played by videogames and, in particular, military-themed games in popular culture and society is complex and at times contradictory. What is clear is that media accounts and public criticism of gaming never question the underpinning ideological and propaganda function of military-themed gaming.
Apocalypse Simulator 101
You’ll spend the first couple of hours gathering resources, running errands, and bringing in survivors. Survivors complain, moan, and fight with one another over a lack of resources and stability. Survivors come with specialized skills that will benefit from their respective properties. Each survivor you take in has a legacy ambition, which is either the safety-focused builder, the community-driven sheriff, the survival of the fittest warlord, or a peaceful trader. Near the end of my builders legacy, I was approached by groups of survivors wanting to join us.
Suddenly, all of that fortress-building was gone, and I had to start a New Game Plus of sorts with three carried over survivors and a bonus trait. Special zombies exist as well, with models that feel stripped right out of Left 4 Dead. The Screamer attracts extra zombies until killed, the Bloater explodes into poisonous gas, the Juggernaut is a damage absorbing tank, and the Feral moves quickly and tackles survivors. As you upgrade your survivors, each one gets a unique melee attack that makes fighting a bit easier. Aside from the introduction, survivors serve more as a gameplay mechanic than they do actual people.
A survivor’s importance to me is based purely on their skills. You can invite up to three friends for a private session, or call in a random survivor via radio. Fortunately for single-player enthusiasts, the A.I. isn’t half bad. In fact, I can usually leave survivors to do all of the fighting for me, so I’m not wasting my ammo.