Manual Not The Time For War Games

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After all, besides the elements of rules and competition, a lack of serious consequences is one cornerstone of many attempts to define games and play, from Huizinga [], p. Precisely because they in general do not deliberately inflict physical harm, yet do, as van Creveld has observed, exhibit some common traits with warfare, games appear well fitted for the purpose of military planning, testing, and training. Games are therefore useful tools to emulate a variety of possible scenarios and challenges, and to enable a largely risk-free and repeatable experimenting in more or less realistic settings.

Unsurprisingly, many contemporary games -- from Go and chess via tabletop role-playing games to the most recent first-person shooter -- have either been developed from, or adapted to, military forms of usage and application Halter, ; Deterding, The close relationship between war and games is a recurrent theme in cultural and game studies, but scholarly assessments of its significance are somewhat varied. However, Huizinga continues, without adherence to basic rules, civilization cannot be distinguished from barbarism and will ultimately cease to exist.

In he writes,. Today, critical scholarly discourse on the relation between war and games no longer directs much attention to the possible civilizational and civilizing aspects of a rule-bound play element in politics and culture. Rather, research addresses the way games represent -- and indeed frame -- wars, and emphasize the often close connections between the game industries, technological developments, and military interests.

It is often argued that both sets of concerns point to how games facilitate a culture-driven virtualization and sanitization of war discourses and battlefields alike, this way implicitly supporting bellicose ideologies, propaganda, and military mindsets. The present special issue comprises contributions adopting perspectives from all the approaches highlighted above, and in this way, we hope, provides a timely update on a constantly evolving debate.

A series of recent edited volumes and a special issue have highlighted the connection between games, play, culture, and war from different theoretical and methodological vantage points. Matthew W. Elliott and Andrew B. Due to their intrinsic connection to past or on-going real-world violent conflicts, war games play a prominent role in their volume. Nina B. Huntemann and Matthew T. Both volumes combine genre and game analysis with historical accounts, provide critical contextualizations of processes of production and play practices, look into varied military uses for planning and rehabilitation, and direct attention to development and design, as well as putting emphasis on anti-war games and practices of counterplay.

The present special issue can be seen as a continuation of all these endeavors. The articles that have been selected for inclusion present new evidence and open up new insights that hopefully will facilitate further discussion of this important issue. The contributions to the present special issue can be roughly divided into two categories that are somewhat characteristic of major directions in game studies.

Distinguishing such tendencies is, of course, a merely heuristic endeavor. Games and players constitute one another through reciprocal dynamic processes in varying contexts.

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What games mean and how they are experienced will necessarily always be contingent and only partially accessible. Even though game-centric and play-centric approaches surely should be combined, not every study will have the capacity to adopt both points of view. Often a somewhat selective focus on one of the two dimensions will have to suffice and it is beyond doubt that such studies produce important and valid results.

What is required, however, is a certain humility on the part of the researcher regarding the inevitably partial and contingent nature of the presented findings. In other words, triangulation does not necessarily have to happen within each study, but can be a valuable asset when correlating the data and results of different studies adopting different and apparently competing methods. Establishing such productive dialogues across scholarly divides was one of the objectives of this special issue. Thematically, history is an important emphasis of this special issue. Five of the nine texts direct attention to how war history is represented, enacted, and understood in games.

We will start by introducing these five contributions. In particular, the article discusses tensions between authenticity and fiction, between realism and schematization, as well as between narrative and procedure, and details how game design can successfully respond to and negotiate these dimensions. Also focusing on history and Central Europe, the contribution by Piotr Sterczewski compares and contrasts three Polish games that deal with the Warsaw uprising of -- a key event in the collective commemoration of World War II in the country.

Arguing for the salience of videogames as a historical form on a par with films or novels, Adam Chapman investigates how World War I is presented in the war-game genre. His article shows that received imageries such as trench warfare, gas attacks, or artillery shelling -- despite being characteristic of popular memory of the events in other media -- only play a minor role in historical games.

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One reason for this, Chapman suggests, is that due to, among other things, a fear of trivialization, games are often still perceived as an unsuitable medium for a sensitive treatment of tragic and traumatic events. A second reason is that the ambiguous nature of World War I, an event that cannot be neatly packaged in terms of good versus evil, complicates a ludic engagement that fares far better with morally disambiguated narratives such as those connected to World War II.

In conclusion, he argues that, particularly in times of resurgent chauvinism and militarism, critical studies of how we represent, and possibly sanitize, the past are of major importance -- regardless of whether the focus is on novels, films, games, or any other media. Employing post-colonial theory to critique the presentation of history and historical processes in Civilization V , the article by Dominic Ford directs attention to large-scale simulation games and to how these frame practices of exploration, expansion, exploitation, and extermination as the most crucial factors driving global developments.

Criticizing the way this 4X genre adopts a Western-centric outlook and naturalizes specifically Western values and perspectives at the level of rules, goals, and mechanics, the article suggests that the genre silences alternative voices and viewpoints, and in this way narrows down possible understandings of world history and global politics. This critique is particularly timely, Ford suggests, as the Civilization series has acquired a certain currency in schools for its alleged educational value. The small-scale qualitative study with 12 participants playing the D-Day mission in Medal of Honor: Frontline EA Games, addresses their perception of realism and potential for historical learning in war games.

Of the remaining four contributions, three deal with player experiences of war games and play, while a final paper addresses the question of how contemporary literature responds to the salience of games and play in contemporary culture. In these processes, Healey observes, classical characteristics of hegemonic masculinity such as sexual prowess and physical strength are replaced by a focus on in-game expertise and player proficiency.

The article shows how this emerging hegemonic masculine group identity is policed through the strategic deployment of sexualized language denigrating poor in-game performances and other deviations through the application of homophobic terminology. The article by Jamie Banks and John G. The contributions summarized above show that the nexus between war, play, and games constitutes a complex and dynamic terrain open for a variety of inquiries combining different methods and theoretical frames.

The present special issue received a huge number of submissions and only a handful of them made it through a thorough double-blind peer review process. We hope that the authors whose contributions could not be included here will also keep up their important work. Too many valuable perspectives and findings could not be included this time and too many questions and problems still remain underexplored. At present we are glad to be able to present a snapshot -- a freeze-frame -- of ongoing debates and scholarly work that, we hope, helps to map the field and inspire new critical inquiries.

After all, wars are prepared and justified in the cultural field. As Judith Butler , p. Or, in the words of James Der Derian , p. It is our contention that, due to their growing cultural currency, games increasingly matter in such processes. As Payne writes, games and play are not located in a socio-political vacuum. First and foremost, we would like to thank the authors and anonymous reviewers who have made this special issue possible. In addition, we would like to express our gratitude to Jessica Enevold for organizing and seeing through the extensive double-blind peer review process and to Espen Aarseth for constructive and critical feedback on the submitted manuscripts and the present editorial.

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A final thank you goes to Christian Beyer for formatting the final manuscripts. We acknowledge such critical advances, but would nevertheless like to highlight the role a delimitation of games and play from more serious activities has played in actual attempts to define games. For our part, we are in agreement with for instance Payne , p. Aarseth, E.

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Foundations of Digital Games. Retrieved November 14, Allen, R. Games and Culture , , Andersen, R. Democratic Communique , , Arjoranta, J. Chapman, A. Its stories of big, gruff warriors are laden with subtextual layers of trauma, of old wars that bleed into the new and inform them in ways that slowly reveal themselves as you learn more about Sera, the not-quite-Earth that serves as the series' setting.

Gears decided, very early on, that if it was going to be a series of videogames about big, violent wars then it was going to at least try to care about the toll those wars take on the people who fight them and the world in which it's fought. Gears 5 's strongest contribution to its parent series, and its strongest moments as a game, come through the way it re-centers those questions of trauma, of melting ice, and the way it uses those questions to offer a new perspective on its world of war.

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Gears 5 begins by focusing on JD, the son of badass gruff manly man Marcus Fenix, who was the protagonist of the first generation of games. But it quickly switches perspective to focus on Kait Diaz, a side member of the new generation of heroes who has always been the most interesting part of her trio.

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She's an outsider, part of one of the many small communities of people who didn't want to assimilate with the COG, the government that consolidated global power during a war with the monstrous Locust. Now, the Locust are back in a mutated form as the Swarm, and Kait, along with many Outsiders, has been forced to join up, fighting as part of a global, arguably fascistic, military in the hopes of saving the human race from the onslaught.

As such, Kait is in a divergent position, a fighter struggling to protect her loved ones while also being personally very aware of the evil things regularly done in the name of that protecting. She knows the cost of the COG's militarism, and when, at the outset of her story, she finds herself out in the wilderness beyond the government's protection, she is a compelling window into both the good and the bad of the world of Gears. From Kait's perspective, the player explores that tension in a vast, snowy mountain range and an equally open desert full of rotting relics of a civilization virtually destroyed before the Locust even emerged.

These limited open-world segments, which make up a large portion of the single-player campaign, are shot through with bits of quiet exploring—and an air of melancholy as Kait discovers lost secrets of herself and the COG. Much of the story work here feels like a revision of the older games, taking deep lore that hardcore fans would already know and reshaping it to explicitly include Kait's outsider perspective, making the gritty sci-fi world-building feel weighty, intimate.

In the game's best moments, its frenetic gunfights are surrounded by a feeling of watching ancient tragedies burst through the ice beneath these characters, threatening to swallow them up. It's surprisingly sad, and it reaches a subtle but effective tonal balance despite being a game about extreme violence.

The color-scapes help: wide tableaus of stark white punctuated with red gore and green undergrowth, barely holding on; endless red dunes. War is endless in Gears 5 , and it's exhausting. I've written very little about the actual experience of playing Gears 5 so far, because there frankly isn't much to say.