There’s been a trend happening in modern shooters where games, like Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, have attempted to capture the home lives of the soldiers whose roles you take for anywhere between 5 – 10 hours. You’re supposed to empathise with these troops who, at a moment’s notice, could be whisked off to the other side of the world to undergo life-threatening missions in order to save the day or oil or secrets or weapons. Or maybe just to kill some Arabs or Russians, leaving behind their soon-to-be ex-wives and children who, when contacted, will go through a scene of such dramatic proportions it makes Days of Our Lives look like a true interpretation of humanity. Some of us do feel a tinge of sadness or understanding. And some of us want to vomit.
When my avatar is suited up in $17,500 worth of military equipment, and I’m firing on guys wearing Hawaiian shirts, I can’t help but feel a little like maybe, just maybe, I’m going to have a lot more empathy for the guy who shops at Kmart. When ‘Captain America’ dies, and his government provides welfare for those he left behind while his life insurance policy cheque gets cashed in, I’m assuming his little Timmy will have some kind of shot at life. Little Wassim, however, is going to be completely screwed. His government is in turmoil, there are either god damn mercenaries shooting at things just because guns are super fun, and there’s a chance some group of lunatics is going to kill him and take his fingers as war trophies.
Nothing says ‘what you are doing to this person is always completely and utterly justified’ like a keffiyeh, or what I now like to call the ‘sure sign you are definitely shooting at a terrorist who wants nothing more than to break down your country and take a nice, steamy shit on your democracy.’ Nearly every enemy in the demo was wearing one of these, which is just fantastic, because not only does it provide a uniform for you to instantly recognise, it also dehumanises those you’re firing on because their faces are covered, causing a lovely little process called deindividuation.
If Medal Of Honor truly wants me to empathise with my character, with the nature of warfare, let me be in control of him as he sits locked in his apartment alone, abandoned by those he loves and the government he fought for, with a nearly empty bottle of whiskey in his hand, drooling and sobbing uncontrollably. Then get the game to start a chain reaction in my computer, whereby the only way I can avoid the pain of seeing the $1600 worth of hardware melt in front of my eyes, I can control that broken human to place a gun right next to his temple where I can pull the trigger and put an end to both of our suffering.
I am so tired of these games, I’m tired of their agenda, constantly whoring themselves out to that massive erection that is the USA’s love of warfare. A country that bites its fingernails and wails about the horrors of video game violence, but still manages to praise its military with a religious zeal. It’s just as terrible looking at Australia’s Navy presence at this year’s EB Expo; their giant booth grinning at me as if to say ‘if you love killing people in the digital world, you’ll crap your pants for the opportunity to see some real blood!’ What would the media do in this scenario? You can’t say anything bad about the Army, even if they think rape is something you should hide from the public, but the chance to talk about the harms of games must have given the Daily Telegraph blue balls the size of the Opera House.
Medal Of Honor: Warfighter is a great shooter, it really is. It looks great, the sound effects are phenomenal, it’s action packed, and really, for my money, it’s an infinitely better experience than any Call of Duty I’ve played. But just like every other modern shooter out there, it’s campaign is designed to pump you so full of misplaced patriotic sentiment and fear of ‘the other’ that you will burst and leave nothing but red, white and blue lumps soaked in the nostril stinging scent of fear.