Just what we need in the 21st century. More ****ing war machines.

I just came across an internet article about how an American "defense" company (Boeing) is now moving to sell its latest F-15 (Silent Eagle) to other countries. It reminded me of the Microprose classic F-15 Strike Eagle, and how my feelings have changed over the years.

Now, at 42, I’m a big ‘ol bleeding heart liberal. I believe America is fundamentally warped (and hopelessly behind the times) by its military-industrial complex. While paying monstrous sums for the latest cutting-edge gold-plated war technology, we’ve become steeped in a…
20th century mindset which views war as inevitable and noble. There was a time when people who thought that way also thought this: profiting off war is immoral. Not so anymore; people naturally expect that Boeing will make (and deserves) a profit from sales of fighter planes to Japan and Europe.

Back in ’92, when I was working on the Harpoon Naval Sim (with a bunch of other guys), I was surrounded by peers who fully understood how horrible a mine injury is. They all could quote Arthur Wellesley ("Nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won.") And that didn’t stop them from assuming that all the war hardware we were simulating was necessary and appropriate. My boss at the time used to proudly assert that jet engines were "the sound of Freedom".

And with hindsight, I can see that all these people (including myself) were affected by the *sexiness* of those war machines. Whether you’re admiring the sleek lines of the fighter, the god-like armor of the Abrams tank, or the technical sophistication of modern radar, the feelings inside ARE ultimately sexual. Terribly, disturbingly sexual. Young men tend to be driven by such feelings, and the modern US military understands and uses this fact.

So I’m not surprised by the subtitle of the new PS3 game, Killzone 2. "War. Perfected." We don’t want to hear "Plague. Perfected." or "Pus. Perfected." or "Venereal Disease. Perfected." But we’d like to see "Dance. Perfected." or "Race Car Design. Perfected." Killzone 2’s marketing is still telling us that war is inevitable and noble. Even fun to do, like dancing. A marvel of creation and sophistication, like race car design. Sigh.

Lighten up, it’s just a game, right? Yes, but the breadth of games and game idioms that exist today show me that not a single game ever has to have a gun in it, ever again. So we PUT guns in games because they are sexy, alluring, simple to make, comprehend, design, and program. While I’ve never personally coded virtual blood spraying out of a virtual skull, I’ve certainly programmed lots of representations of weapons and death in my career. "Shoot the Core!" is an imperative that ANY gamer can implicitly understand.

This post certainly shades into a much larger philosophical debate about how much we are our brother’s keeper, and how much we can change the world. I’m not gonna go there in this blog. But for this old bleeding-heart liberal game designer, it’s something I can’t just ignore.

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