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Ketchaval

Ethics, war art?

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Hi, One last post for the moment. Imagine a really realistic war game, that is as detailed and impressive as a film like Saving Private Ryan's opening. Would this be a good way to examine the moral issues of being a soldier, or does it merely trivialise the whole reality of war. Personally I think that any 'realistic' computer does a disservice to the nature of war. And the more realistic it they become the more trivial it becomes. Because there are no lasting consequences to playing a war themed game Indeed the whole idea of being able to reload or restart a war game from the beginning as the same character (after character death) just goes to show how ridiculous it is. The 'people' in a game have no real existence, no matter how convincing the AI their pain isn't real, they have no families, they do not affect the game world in any way other than not being a player in the battle. What I am getting at here is that all games are illusions, mirages created with computer generated visuals and audio + "A.I". And that this illusion of reality creates a paradox in that no matter how real it seems it isn't real. And the more convincing the game, it is still totally fake. Maybe one way round this is to make it obvious that the game is FICTION, for example by having talking, thinking feeling "animals" as the central character (Like the characters in Star Fox / Lilat Wars, or hobbits ;) ). And / Or using stylised visuals. but the game conveys the themes of sacrifice virtue, suffering etc.. as an underying 'reality'. Ie. It becomes an interactive fiction grounded in reality. That accepts that it is fictional but tries to convey a grander truth and emotional reality nonetheless. Ie. Having talking frogs shake with fear before they go into battle, and read letters from their girlfriends in between missions. [Edited by - Ketchaval on March 28, 2005 1:42:56 PM]

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I think you've hit it on the head there with the symbolism, though a furry version of Black Hawk Down may not be the most effective way to go about it.

I've been considering doing something to this effect myself. You made a good point about reality and the trivialization that save/load makes.

Permadeath is a bitter pill for a player to swallow, but having experienced it at the hands of an unscrupulous player, it can have a significant impact.

Do you have a particular game envisioned here?

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Well, the same thing could be said about books, television, and movies, couldn't it. How about, instead of watching some fake illusion of war, like "Saving Private Ryan" we watch a movie about talking bunnies instead?

If your point is that playing a hyper-realistic game about violence in which there is no "real" violence somehow desensitizes the player, you may have raised a good question. I really wouldn't worry about it, though, until we are playing video games as part of some super virtual-reality setup.

Until then, I'm confident that most people will be able to easily differentiate between the real world and the fictional world of movies, novels, tv, and video games. We know they're fake, and that's fine. That's why they're fun.

Thousands will happily play BF 1942 and get a great kick out of it, but I seriously doubt anyone would actually volunteer to storm Normandy for the fun of it.

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Quote:
Original post by Taolung
Thousands will happily play BF 1942 and get a great kick out of it, but I seriously doubt anyone would actually volunteer to storm Normandy for the fun of it.


I would storm Normandy for the fun of it...


Really, I would.

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The problem (emm well not a problem really) with most wargames is that its content is episodic, meaning that you only fight, desensitizing the player.

To Involve the player more, the gameplay should be seamsless (spelling?) no loading, real-time mission briefing, and the game should not consist of near-constant fighting (for example: you could walk about barracks, talking to other soldiers, learning about their personal lives or hints about future missions).

This brings another topic: Brotherhood.
the game could have conversation trees for each soldier you meet (theoretically), depending on your choices of questions and answers you could create a bond with the soldier. Also they could remember your actions on the battlefield and have differente opinions about you.

killing characters. Have their deaths be totally random to let the player know they are not in control of the war nor the lives of combatants(only the ones in your crosshairs=P).

just some thoughts;)

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Quote:
Original post by Ketchaval
Maybe one way round this is to make it obvious that the game is FICTION, for example by having talking, thinking feeling "animals" as the central character (Like the characters in Star Fox / Lilat Wars, or hobbits ;) ). And / Or using stylised visuals. but the game conveys the themes of sacrifice virtue, suffering etc.. as an underying 'reality'.

I don't think you have to go that far down the 'unreal' route (unless you expect your players to be idiots, but then probably the concepts you talk about are going to be lost on them on the whole) I mean, the Wing Commander games were able to convey these themes quite well in the background, and the characters were definitely human. On your side of combat, anyway.

Also, an old game _Wings_ by Cinemaware for Amiga was able to deal with these themes in simple but very convincing manner -- as a pilot during WW1 you're assigned to maintain the 'diary' of your squadron. So between missions you'd get to read short diary entries that 'you' made, dealing with things happening around you. The game was just simple arcade and simulation sequences stringed together, but that diary thing made it an _experience_ on totally different level.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
OOh an interesting article that talks about the kinds of emotional responses unique to games tension a feeling of accomplishment etc, and seems to suggest that we should try to build on the things we can do http://www.paranoidproductions.com/gamingandgraphics/gg2_01.html

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fools! if you really brought the horrors of war into everyones living rooms, people wouldn't want to play your game! It seems people try to bring out as much realism as possible in a war, but I've yet to see *ANY* war game have civilians and non-combatants getting in a cross-fire and being blown up. I've never seen a computer game where smiling children come up to a soldier for candy and one happens to be carrying a grenade killing them all. I've yet to see a game where you are fighting an invisible enemy ala guerilla warfare. I've never seen a game where entire families are blown up simply because they're in the wrong place at the wrong time. Games also don't have a complicated AI system that has long-term cause and effect consequences (kill a family, the neighbor becomes your enemy a week later). Where are the games with IED's on the roads, hidden in trash piles?
And mortar attacks every evening from a near-by enemy you can't go kill because its politically not allowed, who happens to kill some of your friends as they're talking to their families on cell phones. What about the 95% of battle/war where there is no fighting going on?

no, games are games. Just leave them like that. Make the tank models look more realistic. make the physics engines behave more realistically. do cool particle effects. the best games are fun but not necessarily realistic. My $00.02, keep the change.

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Quote:
Original post by slayemin
fools! if you really brought the horrors of war into everyones living rooms, people wouldn't want to play your game!


-YEAH, who wants to play games where armies mutilate civilians, chopping off their arms or legs with machetes, and a bunch of polygons just doesn't convey or have the same meaning as an actor in make up / prosthetics.

yeah maybe you are right, and I'm just listening too much to the journalists that go on about how "emotions" and character are the next thing needed in games. What do they know?

Maybe games -are trivial- and that is a large part of their strength at least at the moment. I just bought Super Mario World for the GBA SP and although I've played it before it is just so cool and fun and lighthearted in comparison to most of the things I've bought.

Or maybe the 'emotions' that they should try to bring to their drama are more everyday like the Sims?

Or maybe they should just stick to being cool B-movies similar to Star Wars, 28 Days Later, Jurassic Park, Ghostbusters.

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I was thinking about this topic a bit today. Most of the best ways of illiciting emotions in an audience is to have a compelling story, not more graphical and intense game play. You can read some novels and feel lots of emotions from it. Games can be the same way if the story is written correctly. The challenge in a game story is that a story can have multiple outcomes/segments depending on what the player does.

Good article.

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I think we would do well to stop drawing parallels between video games and movies. In doing so, we ignore the most important trait of a video game: Interactivity. Instead of thinking how realistic graphics can be used to convey the horror of war (or anything else, for that matter), we need to think about how we can use the game's response to the player and vice-versa. Interaction with the world is the most important aspect of the human condition. Listening to music, reading dialog of a movie, watching action on a screen, seeing an actor pretend to suffer and die, as powerful as any of those things are, they are completely passive. The viewer/listener/reader DOES NOT participate. This is fundamentally different from video games. I think we are shackled into thinking in terms of non-interactive media. We should think in terms of gameplay over anything else.

Let's look at an example.
I am writing a simple 3D tank game. Everything about the game is abstract. The terrain is made of regular grids and blocks, all the tanks are untextured, 4 polygon programmer-art meshes. The game takes place inside a giant cube floating in space.

Even in this extremely unrealistic and simple game, I've challenged myself to get some sort of emotion or thought going in the player (more than just trigger-twitches).

Current ideas:
-The enemy tanks only turn hostile when they or a tank close to them is fired upon.
-The enemy tanks never try to kill eachother, even if accidently shot by another.
-Every level can be completed without killing another tank.
-At the end of a level, stats should appear with a comment. Something like "5/5 Tanks Killed. Nice going, you monster" or "0/5 Tanks Killed. Perfect." Different messages for the extremes of the kill ratio, even if one is an insult, gives the player a goal. Either way, it's a reward.

Common Problem:
When the scope of the interactivity of the game is so narrow (shooting or not shooting the polygonal tanks), players will choose the one that is most fun. In this case, they will just shoot the tanks. The same thing can be said about any game. Regardless of any moral message or whatever, players will just do what is fun. That is why in this TankGame, will not punish the player. Other games are not so simple. How do you convey the gravity of death without punishing the player? Permadeath is not fun.

That is the core of the problem. No one minds reading a sad novel, or watching a drama. But games are supposed to be FUN, above all. And my emphasis on gameplay implies that we can't just slap in a sad FMV of a favorite character dying and call it a day. Too easy. Too much like a movie.

I think what I'm asking is "Can gameplay alone invoke emotions beyond amusement?" Does that even make sense? Doesn't the very meaning of the word imply amusement above all else? So, I might have painted myself into a corner here. Any thoughts?

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