Friday, December 3, 2010

An odd moment

My surviving Grandfather fought in World War II. There is not much to be gleaned from the bits and pieces of stories I have gleaned from a proud, private man, but I will say that there is a definite mystique about it, an almost automatic respect that has been ingrained for the greatest generation. This is a large part of why the original Medal of Honors worked so well: in the smallest of ways the player is stepping into the shoes of someone that fought in the last good war, if there can be such a thing. There was pride to be found there, and humility, all of which tempered the natural machismo that accompanies crushing ones enemies. The first few Medal of Honor games, along with the Call of Duty's that eventually surpassed them, were moving experiences. I am not a military man, nor do I come from a military family (my father enlisted to avoid the draft and ended up tending bar in Goose Bay, Canada. Not a bad way to not get shot in Vietnam). I've never even fired a god damn gun, much less killed a man who was intent on killing me. In spite of that the World War II setting just worked; it pulled at my sarcastic heart strings and kept me invested long after I had killed more Nazis than actually existed during the entire conflict.

This brings me to the new Medal of Honor, or CoDBLoPs, for that matter. Medal of Honor, as a game, does not hold a candle to even the last Call of Duty, stumbling on simple things like maintaining a solid frame rate and keeping me pointed in the right direction. I expected a bit more from it on the emotional side, but only because I remember the misplaced swelling in my chest that I felt when the music kicked up and I survived the final onslaught in the early Medal of Honors. It just wasn't there. It just doesn't work, and it certainly isn't for lack of trying. I am quite sure that there are men and women of equal or greater worth and fortitude that gave their lives in Afghanistan or Iraq as made the same sacrifice in France or Germany, but the difference is that I just don't care. Current military service has been so sickeningly glorified that the backlash observation is that it is just a career choice; a career choice that could get you killed, but still something that is done simply for a pay check. This is of course not true, but not nearly enough time has passed for all the bull shit to fade into obscurity and the simply service of men willing to die is left.

I mean no disrespect to people who choose to do this, but as a casual observer it simply doesn't work as fodder for interactive diversions. In this case time does not provide detachment, it provides a clouded perspective. There are probably all sorts of terrible things that soldiers did in WWII that have either been forgotten or just swept under the rug; current wars don't have that luxury. Medal of Honor tries to touch on this, with the blow hard general calling shots and getting people killed from the comfort of his cushioned Washington chair, but it still does not provide anywhere near the impact of liberating an overrun town on the outskirts of Paris.

It is probably very, very wrong to reduce events in when men die to how entertaining they are in simulation, but I make no apologies. This is the world in which we live, and when I can pretend to kill people in ever increasing detail the context in which I kill them becomes more and more important.

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