War games: Military tech in the virtual world
War games: Military tech in the virtual world

Military shooters are big business in the gaming world, the most successful releases pulling in millions of players. This genre takes its inspiration from real military technology. As the high-definition era of gaming continues to mature, the concept of ‘immersion’ has risen to become one of the key words in the game developer’s lexicon.

Powerful modern consoles and increasingly high-tech televisions mean that, from a purely audiovisual perspective, today’s games have more power to immerse players in new worlds than ever before.
The latest graphics engines give game developers the ability to realistically recreate real-life scenarios or invent entirely fantastical ones.

While gamers might choose to battle bizarre alien species on distant worlds or live out their superhero fantasies, many opt for an experience much closer to what they might regularly see on news reports and documentaries – the modern military shooter.

The rise of military shooters
Over the course of the latest generation of games consoles, now considered to be approaching their dotage as even more powerful hardware prepares to hit store shelves, military shooters have become one of the pre-eminent forces in video games.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, the latest iteration of the Call of Duty franchise (the undisputed heavyweight of the genre), sold around 6.5 million copies in the US and UK in its first 24 hours on sale when it was released in 2011, grossing $400 million in the blink of an eye to become the most successful entertainment release of all time.

Steadily gaining in popularity over the last ten years, these games, in which players step into the combat boots of a modern soldier and complete objectives in realistic virtual battlefields, take their inspiration from real-life military technologies and tactics.

They range from accessible fare like Call of Duty, which finds its closest counterpart in the wham-bam simplicity of Hollywood action films, to highly complex tactical combat simulations that pay close attention to military accuracy and authenticity.

The developers of the more tactical war games go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that, as far as possible, their products are an accurate reflection of the cutting-edge technology and tactics which are being used on today’s battlefields.

advanced military simulation
A huge amount of research is invested into the world’s most respected tactical military games, from vehicle and equipment designs to consulting with defence manufacturers and military advisors. an independent game studio based in the Czech Republic, takes great care to ensure authenticity in its Arma series, reckoned by many to be the world’s most realistic military simulators.Despite the financial restrictions inherent to independent game development, spends the time and money required to make the military technologies in its games, from calling in artillery strikes and air support to piloting advanced military vehicles, ring true with a knowledgeable fanbase.

War games: accuracy vs. entertainment
In the end, however, it’s important to note that these games are being made for gamers, not soldiers, and providing thrilling entertainment is the paramount concern. Buchta notes that making Arma 3 too realistic runs the risk of alienating players who find it too constrained or frustrating. “There are technologies which work great for our game’s scope, and some which don’t,” he said. “Extensive use of unmanned vehicles works well and provides the player with some interesting means to scout the enemy. On the other hand, there is no sense for us to simulate something like complex radio jamming or encryption, as it wouldn’t provide any real gameplay benefits.”

Lacey believes there’s a delicate balance to be struck between accuracy and entertainment, that players should be enabled to feel that they have the skills of an elite soldier without the years of training. For Future Soldier’s however, the restrictions of authenticity also have some interesting implications for game design.

Military training and simulation
Games and simulations have a long history with militaries around the world for their potential as training tools. After all, the origin of squad-based tactical shooter Full Spectrum Warrior can be traced to a development programme within the US Army-funded Institute for Creative Technologies to explore the potential of gaming as a training aid, before a separate commercial release was created for gamers.

So games and the military enjoy a two-way technology transfer. Games like Ghost Recon get informed by the latest military innovations and weapons platforms, while armed forces around the world employ sophisticated software to help ready their troops for real combat. From the games development perspective, as long as the demand for realistic military shooters maintains its pace and the world’s armed forces keep prototyping new technologies, it seems fact will continue to be as powerful a source of inspiration as fiction.