One thing I’ve noticed that I’m sure many of you have as well is that war is a monolithic theme in games, but why? There are all sorts of topics that people can and have very successfully based games on and so why is it so very often when my friends and I sit down to play a game am I attempting to dismantle their obviously inferior empire? Well I think there are two lines of thought that best fit what is actually going on here. The first being that war is a very simple yet effective means of creating conflict, an essential thing to any good game or any good piece of media for that matter. The secondary being that war in itself has always been rather gamish in nature, and many games through time have been made to emulate war, why would they stop now?
Conflict, or Agon as we talked about it earlier in this class before *Redacted*. In games it’s obviously a fairly key feature, even to cooperative games. Games are inherently an interactive media, and so you need to give the player some kind of reason or need to interact with the world of the game. War is one of the most basic and easily understandable casus belli for conflict man has ever created. It follows a very simple formula: party A has something, or has done something that party B either does or does not like, and so they fight over that thing. Whether that thing be resources, land, weapons, or even less tangible things like religion or culture. All this is pretty simply conveyed, especially in modern society where ideas of the state and nation have prevailed amongst most people to be adequate constructs to build a civilization around. So this makes it very easy for players to understand why they should be attacking another player or NPC, especially when the game allows for the player to make the decisions of who they are at war for themselves as to allow them to come up with the reasoning for their conflicts themselves. There is also the “state of endless warfare” approach as I call it that is worth mentioning. Regardless of the quality the game itself possesses, Risk is a good example of this approach. Where it is heavily implied that there is a war or conflict taking place, and yet it’s far less formal, you simply can attack and defend without all that need for treaties and peacetime recuperation. Who needs that though? What we need is to prop up the military industrial complex, so go get em supreme leader!
The scene above is likely familiar to many of you. Military officials gathered around a table pushing pieces around a board to represent troop movements on a map. Hmm, I wonder what that could remind one of? That poorly placed rhetorical question aside, the outcomes of war have long been projected and had models founded to predict their ending results. These simulations have often bore many game-like elements, as war, despite costing countless lives for often nothing more than the selfish interests of a select few, is in itself somewhat a game. You move troops and make plans to attempt to eliminate enemy troops and capture areas of strategic importance. Look no further than the origin for the term HP to understand how deep this connection runs. It was actually founded by naval warfare simulators created by the US and was meant to represent the damage the hull of a ship could take before sinking. Even back in medieval times one of the responsibilities a knight had to his squire was to teach them chess. It was thought to help to teach strategy for war. Similarly many generals in asian cultures used to be valued on their skills in the game Go. There is simply a legacy as I hope to have demonstrated, which results in war still having significant sway on the order in which games are created.