On Wargaming: [pt. 5] – Personal Gaming Experiences

Part 5: Personal Gaming Experiences

In the previous posts of “On Wargaming” we examined the concept of metagaming and several ways that it can be applied while playing simulators. In this post, I want to discuss some personal opinions on my own experiences with video games, war gaming, and game-based learning.

Note: While any game can technically be referred to as a simulation/simulator since they represent a certain take on reality, for the sake of this post, I’ll be applying those terms more to the genre of video games. In this context, a simulation/simulator is any game that attempts to portray real-world elements such as tactics, strategy, physics, history, etc. with an eye for realism and/or complexity. Thus, the game must have a learning curve beyond something that is merely a pick-up and play style of game. The player will need to apply some form of forethought, logic, and the study of the fundamentals, to be successful in the game. For example, a corridor crawler, shoot ’em up like DOOM doesn’t meet those criteria because the only things needed to be successful in that game are sharp reflexes, a fast trigger finger, and in some cases, an IQ of less than 100. All the player does is run, jump, and shoot stuff until it dies. That doesn’t exactly require you to exercise your gray matter. It’s perfect for the grunts.

Personal Gaming History

Now that we’ve laid some groundwork for how I analyze a simulator’s features in the previous post, let’s look at my personal gaming history. It’s worth noting that I’ve been a gamer for a large chunk of my life. Generally speaking, my earlier experiences with video games followed two, roughly parallel, tracks, but occasionally they overlapped and superseded one another. The two tracks were console gaming and PC gaming.

Console Gaming

My experiences on consoles goes all the way back to the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). After that, it was on to the Sega Genesis (Megadrive for the non-North Americans), Nintendo 64 (N64), and lastly, the Microsoft Xbox (i.e. the 1st generation Xbox, not that later 360, Xbox One, etc.). Those console systems encompassed the majority of my gaming experiences from the 1980s to the early 2000s.

The majority of these console games were very “arcadey” in gameplay style. These were the classic console games like Super Mario Bros., Sonic: The Hedgehog, The Legend of Zelda, Goldeneye 007, Halo, etc. Owing to the fact that they were console games and limited to the number of buttons on the controller, they didn’t have a particularly steep learning curves, nor did they require any significant amounts of study to master. Furthermore, the processing power of consoles limits them to how detailed the games can be, which is why you don’t often see genuine simulators published for gaming consoles. However, there were a few games that I played which could probably be (very loosely) classified as a simulators. These would be the Full Spectrum Warrior series, the Brothers in Arms series, and the console versions of the Rainbow Six series. I would also add in Star Wars: Republic Commando, given that it was within the same genre, albeit in a science fiction setting. Note that all of these games were representative of the squad-based, tactical shooter genre. (These types of games were somewhat in vogue in the early 2000s and were probably easier for the console’s processor to handle since the environments were usually fairly constrained.

Let me give a few thoughts on each of the titles.

Full Spectrum Warrior

From my understanding, Full Spectrum Warrior was a commercialized version of a piece of software developed for the U.S. Army to teach basic squad-level tactical decision-making skills to soldiers. Although, whether or not that project was successful with the Army is debatable. Naturally, in being adapted to gaming consoles, a number of features were simplified or removed, and the graphics were updated. The game wasn’t a first-person shooter (FPS), but rather, it was a real-time squad-based tactics simulator. The player took the role of a squad leader and commanded 2x four-man fire teams (the composition of a current U.S. Army squad). With the game camera following either fire team (like an embedded photographer), the player maneuvered the two fire teams around in various environments as they moved towards their objectives. The player had to learn how to utilize real-world squad-level tactics such as suppression fires, bounding overwatch, etc. Personally, I found that the game was particularly good at introducing players to the basic tactics used by fire teams in urbanized areas. This is otherwise known as Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT). However, in reality, MOUT covers much more than just combat operations.

Brothers in Arms

Whereas Full Spectrum Warrior was more of a real-time tactics game, Brothers in Arms was a FPS game with squad-based tactics integrated into the gameplay. The player took the role of a fictional squad leader in the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division that jumped into Europe. One really great thing about the game was that it recreated actual locations and engagements that occurred in World War II that the unit encountered in Normandy, France. Most of the missions were small, tactical engagements, and the narrative culminated in the Battle of Bloody Gulch. (Those who’ve seen the HBO miniseries, Band of Brothers, will be familiar with this engagement from episode 3, Carentan). The game developers studied WWII aerial reconnaissance photos and visited the actual battlefields in France to get an understanding of the geography in order to recreate the environments in the game. Additionally, retired U.S. Army officer, John Antal worked as a historical & military advisor. The result was a game that was authentic to the historical setting (with both historical and fictional characters), and accurate in it’s use of simple, squad-based WWII-era tactics.

The squad command system in Brother in Arms was simple to use and revolved around the use of the left trigger as a sort of action button. While looking at an enemy and using the left trigger, you could order a team to open fire on and suppress that enemy. While looking at an area on the ground and using the left trigger, you could order a fire team to move to a specific location. The gameplay tactics were centered around the use of the “four Fs” (Find ’em, Fix ’em, Flank ’em, and Finish ’em). Areas of cover in the game were obvious, and the environments were designed to reinforce the use of the four F’s (particularly flanking maneuvers). In fact, many areas could not be taken by the use of a direct frontal assault. The basic tactic was that one fire team in the game operated as a suppressive element, while the player could either order, or go with, the assault element around to a flank and take out the enemy.

Of course, the main issue with this game was that the level design was obviously built around the implementation of the “four Fs.” The objects to take cover behind and the paths that allowed flanking maneuvers were not hard to spot. Additionally, there were areas in the game (such as going up against a machine gun nest or an 88mm gun) where you only had a single way to advance. In most cases, you could only proceed by flanking a machine gun. In the case of some artillery guns, you needed to charge forward in a direct frontal assault.

Rainbow Six

The first Rainbow Six game was, of course, something of a forerunner to the modern first-person, tactical, squad-based shooter. I recall playing the first title in the series which came out on PC. A port was made for the N64, however, I found the controls for that version to be clunky and the gameplay features to be heavily nerfed. The player took the role of the leader of a counter-terrorist team as they moved through various indoor and urban environments to take out terrorists, rescue hostages, and defuse bombs. The games were notable for being more realistic than your average shooter at the time and emphasized tactics related to Close Quarter Battle (CQB). For example, the player had no health bar, no first aid kits, no regenerating health, and could die in just a few hits, even while wearing the heaviest body armor. Prior to the start of each mission was a load out and planning section where the player selected their team mates, kitted them out with gear, and then planned how they would advance through the mission. The missions required attention to detail and meticulous planning, lest something go awry.

As the series progressed, however, it did away with many of the more realistic elements in favor of a more fast-paced action style of gameplay. The ports for the consoles (Xbox included) were much more action-oriented and removed many of the features and missions. For example, they removed the mission planning feature, and instead dropped you right into the action. Furthermore, the size of the team was reduced. In the PC versions, up to seven additional A.I. teammates could be included and divided up into different fire teams. The console ports reduced the number to only three A.I. teammates. (Essentially, one fire team). Despite the changes to gameplay, the console versions did utilize a very usable radial action menu for controlling your teammates. This action menu was quick and easy-to-use since you were fighting mostly indoors, or in enclosed areas, and you needed a fine degree of control over your team. Every door was potentially a “funnel of death” if there were bad guys and hostages on the other side, so the player needed to decide if the team was going to use flashbangs, smoke grenades, or explosive charges when they breached a door.

The limitations of the Rainbow Six games on the consoles were that all of the levels were basically linear. While some larger rooms had multiple entry points, and some of the maps were more open, what you had was essentially a tactical corridor crawler.

What these three game series demonstrate is that consoles were limited by their processing power in terms of how well they could render a simulation. However, squad-based tactical shooters did have some merits that lent themselves to leaning more towards portraying real-world scenarios. As long as the environments could be kept fairly enclosed and the controls adapted to the limited number of buttons on a controller, then these shooters could probably be classified as simulators, or at least simulator-esque. While I am familiar with the WWII-themed Call of Duty and Medal of Honor games, I don’t classify them as simulators since their controls were very simple and they relied more on fast reflexes. Despite their historical settings, they really were more action-oriented titles.

My experiences with console gaming ended around 2005 and I never purchased another console beyond the original Xbox. Mostly because I didn’t want to spend all my time and money on the inevitable next console.

Early PC Gaming

The parallel experience to my use of gaming consoles were PC games. I grew up in the days when PCs were becoming more affordable. Dial-up internet was a new thing, and the CD-ROM allowed software to proliferate (along with all those annoying AOL CDs you always got in the mail and were convenient for skeet shooting). I remember when electronics stores had big sections with nothing but PC games in their colorful boxes and games still came on CDs in jewel cases with genuine user manuals. Ahh…those were simpler days.

I cut my teeth on space-flight, science fiction simulators like Star Wars: TIE Fighter and Descent. Of course, it’s debatable as to how “realistic” those games were given their fictional and futuristic settings. The gameplay didn’t have much bearing on real-life, and looking back on it now, it was pretty “arcadey.” I also played the Comanche series of helicopter action games, but that was as far as I went for “flight sims” in the 1990s. In fact, you could hardly classify the space-flight and Comanche games as simulators, apart from the fact that they used the entire keyboard for gameplay, since they all utilized fairly simplistic game mechanics and physics models.

The 90s also saw the rise of the point-and-click adventure genre. I was really into the Myst series due to the imaginative settings, steampunk aesthetic, and logical puzzles. I suppose those games were more in line with the simulator definition since they relied far less on fast-paced action and the player needed to apply logic and deductive reasoning to solve the puzzles.

I was never much for real-time strategy, although I did play some Starcraft. However, the one series that I did enjoy was the Homeworld series.

All that being said, I was never much of a serious PC gamer in the 90s, and I only played games that my computer could support at the time. I barely knew the first thing about the different components of a PC, much less what building a gaming rig was all about. Due to my heavy console gaming, I fell out of PC gaming around 2003 and didn’t get back into it until around 2008.

Late-2000s PC Gaming

Around 2008 I began getting back into playing PC games, this time on actual gaming rigs. Let’s examine some of the simulators that I played from different genres and how I began to look more critically at gaming. For each title, I’ll be broadly applying some metagaming concepts to it, as well.

Tactical Simulators – The Beginnings of My Interest in Simulations

When I got back into PC gaming I spent a fair amount of time playing FPS games. The Crysis series and the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series were staples in my gaming library. Those games were a lot of fun, to be sure, but I was also looking for more of a challenge and a game that would last me longer than 5 – 12 hours of play. Around this time, I also began playing the WWII submarine simulator, Silent Hunter 4: Wolves of the Pacific. I’ll refer to it as SH4 from now on.

While I’m no submariner and I don’t have a tremendous interest in the type of vessel (although they are cool), my interest in the Imperial Japanese Navy and the Pacific Theater kept me playing SH4, and subsequently studying more about WWII submarine tactics. The conclusion I came to was that a player’s biggest asset when playing SH4 wasn’t fast reflexes, but rather, patience. That is, the patience to thoroughly understand the game mechanics, the patience to study historical submarine tactics, the patience to understand how naval warfare changed as the war progressed and the role that U.S. submarines had strategically against Japan. Finally, the patience to integrate the study of those topics together in order to be successful at the game. Eventually, I began looking at how history and real-world tactics were represented and applied in simulators.

Metagaming as applied to SH4

SH4 modeled quite a bit, both technically and historically, but there were still some glaring omissions in it. Many of the gameplay mechanics in relation to operating your submarine were heavily simplified. For example, only a single button press was required to dive your submarine. However, successful gameplay hinged upon you understanding basic WWII submarine tactics, such how to get into a position for a torpedo attack, how to calculate a torpedo firing solution, how to evade anti-submarine escorts, and how to manage your fuel and crew.

SH4 was specifically a WWII, tactical, submarine simulator. While I’ve never played any of the prequels or the sequel, from my understanding, the SH4 engine was essentially the same as the one in SH3 with some graphical improvements and different game units. For example, U.S. fleet submarines had four diesel engines (two for each propeller shaft), yet I had a situation where two engines (one on each shaft) were destroyed. Yet, my electric motors, which connected the engines to the shafts, were still intact. So, logic would hold that I would still be able to get underway with the remaining two engines. However, the game didn’t actually simulate four separate engines because it was still running on the older SH3 engine where German U-boats only had two engines.

I also used SH4’s mission editor extensively to create my own scenarios. I eventually realized that while SH4 had surface warships in it, it wasn’t a very accurate surface warfare simulator. Also, naval air operations were completely simplified and hardly apparent. To give a few examples:

  • Surface vessels, regardless of type, wouldn’t engage each other beyond roughly 8,000 yards (according to the in-game measurements).
  • Surface search and air search radar were only modeled on the player’s submarine, but not on any other vessel. (i.e. the visual models of the surface vessels depicted them as having radars, but the gameplay mechanics didn’t model them as using radar, either for search or fire control.)
  • Destroyers and cruisers didn’t use their surface-fired torpedoes.
  • Aircraft carriers didn’t visibly launch or recover aircraft. In fact, if you put a carrier on the map, only a handful of planes would eventually appear in the area.
  • Fighter planes didn’t dogfight with each other or engage other aircraft.
  • And so on…
  • Not to mention that early versions of the game were buggy.

Sometime around 2015 or 2016, I decided to stop playing SH4 because it was getting a bit long in the tooth and I was so familiar with the game that it no longer presented much of a challenge. I realized that it wasn’t doing anything more for me. Still, SH4 was a lot of fun. It was a nice mix of more simplified controls and simulator elements that made it rewarding to play. Like any good simulator, the player could study historical WWII submarine tactics and apply them to the game. It certainly couldn’t model every aspect of naval warfare, but it was never designed to do so in the first place. All in all, it was a decent tactical submarine simulator. More importantly, once the majority of the bugs were worked out, the core elements of the game worked well.

On an interesting note, I know that SH1 also took place in the Pacific, and there was a companion game to SH2 called Destroyer Command. The idea being that there could be multiplayer games between those who owned SH2 and those who owned Destroyer Command with players fighting against each other in their respective vessels. SH5 ended up being the last title of the series (thus far) and the developer, Ubisoft, has essentially abandoned the franchise, probably because it was a very niche simulator and not a cash cow. It didn’t help that SH5 was incredibly buggy upon release which promptly deterred me from ever purchasing it. In any case, Ubisoft seemed to focus mostly on the Assassin’s Creed series for a good number of years afterward.

After looking at various other simulators, I tried my hand at high-fidelity combat flight simulators. I figured, “What the heck! I played a little Microsoft Flight Simulator back in the day. It wasn’t a staple of my library, and I wasn’t very good, but I think I can fly a fighter jet. This shouldn’t be too bad.” Well, those were famous last words.

Allow me to put it this way. My experience with high-fidelity combat flight simulators, like Falcon 4.0: Allied Force, have been amateurish, to say the least. In other words, I sucked at them and tactical flight sims really aren’t my thing. While I used to have a Hands-On Throttle And Stick (HOTAS) setup, my ability to fly and fight a complex fighter jet like the F-16 was pretty sad. I had a terrible time memorizing all the button presses, toggles, and tactics required to be even mildly competent at piloting the aircraft, much less fighting it. Of course, the F-16 (AKA Viper, Electric Jet) is one of the first digital fly-by-wire fighters. Arguably, the flight computer flies it more than you. The pilot more or less “suggests” what they want the airplane to do and the flight computer interprets that. Anyway, it was way too complex for a simpleton, like me. Not to mention that the sheer speed of fighter combat didn’t mesh with my cognitive abilities…or lack thereof. Thus, I realized that I would never really be very good at (much less have the time or energy) to play more recent flight sims like Digital Combat Simulator (DCS) or IL-2. Hence, why I’ve never played any other high-fidelity flight sims since.

Before anyone asks, no, I haven’t played other types of tactical vehicle simulators like Steel Beasts, Dangerous Waters, or Cold Waters. Mostly because of time, work, and life commitments.

2010 to Present PC Gaming

This brings us to more or less contemporary events. By the time the new decade rolled around, I was becoming very familiar with the mechanics of SH4, and as previously mentioned, I stopped playing it around 2015 due to being overly-familiar with it. I was craving a new simulator of a different genre, and 2013 saw the release of ARMA 3.

I was already somewhat familiar with the ARMA series, having played the first game back when it was called Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis (a falling out with the publisher, Codemasters, eventually led the name being changed to ARMA: Cold War Assault). However, I noticed that ARMA 3 retained many of the same mechanics that the original game had. So, what seemed advanced back in the early-2000s, now seemed far behind the curve in 2013. At first, I enjoyed playing ARMA 3. It was a breath of fresh air and I really got into experimenting with the mission editor. However, like any game, after playing it for so long, I began to see the flaws in the product (and it has many serious flaws). While ARMA 3 had a lot of things going for it, after about six years (and thousands of hours) of playing it, I had to give up on ARMA 3. Unlike SH4, where I quit playing because I was simply too familiar with the game, I quit playing ARMA 3 because of various problems I had with the game’s mechanics which ended up breaking the immersion for me. And I just couldn’t take it anymore.

Metagaming as applied to ARMA 3

In many ways ARMA 3 is a very capable platform and a decent simulator. What we have is a game where all the components are in place to be a true showstopper. However, it fails the game mechanic logic test because several glaring issues cause a break in player immersion. It’s difficult for me to reconcile my feelings with ARMA 3 because parts of it are quite enjoyable, but I have some long-standing problems with the game.

I’m not going to go into the history of the ARMA franchise and the related development of the Virtual Battle Space simulation, but suffice it to say that despite the continuing support of the series, many of the core issues related to the game’s clunky mechanics and abysmal artificial intelligence have never been adequately addressed as each iteration of the franchise has been released.

For starters, the game plays more like a sandbox with dozens of weapons and vehicles at the player’s disposal for them to use on the large maps. To be clear, this sandbox format isn’t really a gripe I have with the game, but it’s worth pointing out in order to define what we should expect of it. The benefit here is that players can take on any number of roles in a combined arms scenario. Some players can play as infantry while others provide close-air-support with attack aircraft, ferry troops in helicopters, or roll around in tanks or IFVs. The problem is that the controls and handling of the vehicles are very simplistic when compared to more dedicated, high-fidelity vehicle simulators. Flying a jet in ARMA is not the same as flying DCS. Driving an armored vehicle in ARMA is not the same as in Steel Beasts. Essentially, ARMA has air, land, and sea assets, but the simulator aspects of ARMA show through mostly when it comes to the game mechanics related to infantry combat. When playing as an infantryman, the player can take a variety of stances beyond the usual standing, crouched, and prone. They can deploy their weapon on a bipod (if equipped on the weapon), or rest it against a solid surface to make their aim more accurate. Other game features for the infantry experience include limited stamina which is affected by the amount of equipment they’re carrying, and bullets following a ballistic trajectory whilst being affected by any wind present. Thus, the player needs to appropriately measure range to their target and take into account elevation and windage, particularly when making shots over 100 meters.

Let’s get into my major issues with the game mechanics.

My first major issue lies with the core of the game playing, sounding, looking, and feeling rather mediocre. The core elements are there, but it feels very middle of the road. I believe that this stems from the developer’s practice of having the core gameplay elements form a bare bones foundation from which to build off of. It’s up to the player to utilize the bevy of free mods from the community to supplement their play style and make the game play how they want. I can certainly see the reasoning for this. The game is meant to be a like a workable framework which the player can infinitely modify to suit their needs. There are literally hundreds of mods available for this game. Everything from new vehicles, units, terrains, and even mods to address the A.I.’s lack of aggressive behavior can be found. Some of the mods can significantly change the gameplay to make it more or less realistic. Just find the appropriate mods you want and download them! Make it your own! Unfortunately, you can literally end up with a “mod soup” of dozens of mods installed when you load the game. Most of the time, it’s just so you can get more than the basic features of the game. Therein lies the problem. The player needs to hunt around for mods to address seemingly basic issues like weak A.I. or a more usable squad command system. Why aren’t they in the game to begin with, and why haven’t they been addressed and updated as the franchise has grown? The result is that you have a game where it feels like you’ve been undersold on a product. Any further accoutrements are up to you to go out and find. I’m of the philosophy that a game, even in its most basic form, should do something well straight out of the box. The problem with ARMA 3 is that it does many things, but all of them in a shallow way. It’s up to the player to use mods to deepen the experience.

My second issue with the game is that it’s very processor-intensive and not well-optimized. Even very powerful systems, well beyond the recommended system requirements, reach a point of diminishing returns and still experience poor performance in areas. From my understanding, the bulk of the game’s coding hasn’t changed much over the years as the franchise has evolved. The graphics engine has been updated, but the core game programming has mostly been retained with some adjustments. This is most apparent in two aspects: the action menu controls, and in the poor A.I. These two things greatly break immersion for me and constitute my other major problems with the game.

The third major problem deals with the action menu. This has been a feature since the first game of the series (Operation Flashpoint AKA ARMA: Cold War Assault). Since there are so many commands and actions possible in the game, the player must use their mouse scroll wheel to bring up a side menu and navigate through multiple sub-menus to get to what they want. While this style of menu may have been appropriate back in 2001, today, it’s a horribly clunky and outdated control system that requires a degree of fine motor control. Imagine fiddling with your scroll wheel and trying to navigate numerous menus to order your A.I. teammates around in the middle of a firefight. In contrast, just reference the aforementioned Brothers in Arms and Rainbow Six 3 to get an idea of games that had well-thought out, highly intuitive, and usable squad command systems. In fact, many other games have followed suit with using radial action menus. If anything, ARMA’s developer, Bohemia Interactive, would do well to take notes. It may seem like a minor thing to make a fuss about, but it makes controlling the A.I. such a chore for the player.

Finally, the A.I. in the game is basically a train wreck. Specifically, it’s the A.I.’s poor use of tactics and pathfinding. Or shall we say, lack thereof. I’m almost convinced the A.I. is something of a placeholder since so much of the game seems to rely on multiplayer.

Let’s look at the infantry A.I.

  • When coming under fire, the A.I. infantry’s default behaviors are going prone and using bounding overwatch. They make almost no use of any other infantry tactics like flanking, suppressive fires, breaking contact, etc. (You know, tactics that real life infantry are trained to use.) On rare occasions they will use grenade launchers.
  • The A.I. response to ambushes or seeing friendlies get killed is incredibly slow and dim-witted. Most of the time they just stand around and allow plenty of time for the enemy to mow them down with machine guns and rifle fire. They don’t seem to understand how to find cover or how to assault through an ambush.
  • The A.I. is slow to respond to commands from the player (assuming they respond in the first place). They’ll often run back and forth trying to find a way around a wall or a fence. Their pathfinding rarely takes them through buildings and it breaks down in enclosed spaces and urban areas. They don’t seem to understand what a 90-degree corner is and how to check around it. The more constricted the terrain is, the worse their pathfinding through it is.
  • The A.I. has difficulty in following basic waypoints…period. They also move very cautiously and slowly, even over wide open terrain and when no apparent threat is present.
  • The A.I. are slow to employ special weapons against vehicles (anti-tank/anti-aircraft launchers). Usually, the guy holding it just gets blown away before he can even get it ready.
  • The A.I. infantry make very little use of actual cover, despite the multitude of objects around them, such as low walls, trees, boulders, buildings, etc. Nor do they immediately move to cover when coming under fire.
  • Against the player, the enemy A.I. is unerringly skilled. You could be sprinting across open ground and the A.I. will seemingly pick you off from 900 – 1,000 meters in just a few shots. Yet, they can barely hit each other from 50 meters away. Friendly A.I. also have an annoying tendency to run directly into your line of fire.

A.I. vehicular behavior is also questionable

  • In jets, the A.I. clearly isn’t programmed to do basic air combat maneuvers. They just chase each other around in circles, fire missiles, and try to use their guns.
  • When facing incoming missiles and anti-air threats, like SAMs, they make no attempts to evade. Rather, they merely fly in a straight line, and deploy chaff and flares to attempt to decoy the missile. More often than not, they simply get blown out of the sky by any kind of air defense (SAMs or AAA).
  • A.I. pilots have an unfortunate tendency to suffer controlled flight into terrain. Helicopters and airplanes often fly so low as to clip trees or fly right into the side of a mountain and crash. They also don’t maintain consistent speed. Helicopters tend to pitch back and forth, and planes randomly speed up and slow down. Also, like the infantry, aircraft have difficulty in following waypoints and will frequently circle around (or hover) in an area for no particular reason without moving on to their next waypoint.
  • The ground vehicle pathfinding has thankfully improved and now follows roads, but in early versions of the game, they had difficulty even making 90-degree turns. Tanks would even get inexplicably stuck on nothing while trying to accelerate, and then suddenly, you’d see the 60-ton armored vehicle take flight and leap 100 feet into the air! Ground vehicles often bottom-out on rocks and drive off bridges or into deep water. Even worse, they still get stuck repeatedly driving into trees, reversing, and then driving forward into the same tree, again and again. It’s like they never figured out what a steering wheel is for or how to perform a J-turn or a three-point turn. Also, like the infantry, they struggle with driving in urban areas. Don’t even bother sending them into a wooded area.
  • Water vehicles are just as bad. Boat drivers don’t seem to be aware of what land is. If transporting troops in a boats, they often don’t get close enough to shore to drop the men off. The passengers frequently end up jumping out of the boat and slowly swimming the last hundred or so meters to shore.

All in all, the physics engine isn’t designed well for vehicles and the A.I. is incredibly inept. There are far better and more adaptive A.I.’s out there in other video games. It seems like the developers have stuck with the same A.I. for years with only small improvements here and there. In my opinion, Bohemia Interactive should just completely toss out the current A.I. script and start over from scratch. The same goes for the action menu and some of the game mechanics.

What this all amounts to is that the player knows the A.I. is incompetent and not programmed to do certain actions without the use of specialized scripts. The game is more or less meant to be played in multiplayer with the A.I. supplementing the human players. Combined with the overly clunky action menu controls and poor optimization, these factors really hinder player immersion. In the case of the game mechanic logic test, ARMA 3 fails, not only because it tries to address too many aspects of air, land, and sea-based warfare in a clunky and lackluster fashion, but also because the immersion-breaking A.I. and mechanics preclude a lot of real-world logic. In the end, around 2018 or 2019, I gave up playing ARMA 3 altogether. I certainly enjoyed playing it for a time, and it does some things fairly well, but I think it tries to address too many things and ends up feeling too lackluster in execution. I was looking for a simulator with more depth and well-developed mechanics.

Beginning Interest in War Games and Game-Based Learning

What I didn’t realize, at the time (around the year 2018), was that I was grappling with the reconciliation between reality and its virtual representations. Prior to this, video games were always just that to me…games. Nothing more than mindless entertainment for kids. However, I slowly began looking at what we can learn from games versus what we can learn academically, and how those lessons can be applied back and forth between the two mediums. Since I was getting into playing more simulators at the time, the educational potential for these platforms was more than your average shoot-’em-up type of video game.

Using games as a medium for learning, the benefit of simulators is that they allow us to virtually experience hypothetical/historical scenarios. Historically-themed simulators like SH4 allow us to immerse ourselves in historical scenarios and see what we would do in such situations. I’ll likely never participate in a naval battle of any sort in real life, much less ones on the scale of the battles of Midway, Guadalcanal, Philippines Sea, Leyte Gulf, etc. However, simulators allow us to virtually experience those events and see how our actions could hypothetically influence the outcome. With games like ARMA 3, we can experience hypothetical firefights.

Basically, can games teach us skills to apply to real-life, and can we apply real-life skills/lessons to games? In short, educational war gaming.

As previously mentioned, I have no personal experience in playing DCS. Although I have watched many people play it. Based on my poor performance in playing Falcon 4.0, I doubt I’ll be very good at DCS. I’m sure many will probably draw parallels between the two simulators. DCS is probably the best combat flight simulator on the market right now that deals with multiple modern platforms. You could also draw a number of parallels between DCS and ARMA 3 since they both have air, sea, and land units. However, DCS was built from the start as a flight simulator. Furthermore, the game’s lineage goes back quite some time and the game’s engine and mechanics have changed over the decades to coincide with changes in gaming standards. (Refer back to the discussion on ARMA 3 which notes that the basic engine and mechanics haven’t changed much from iteration to iteration and most of the simulation mechanics of that game are focused on infantry perspective.)

However, the Game Mechanic Logic Test still applies to DCS since it’s a combat flight simulator at its core. What DCS does extremely well is that it models a number of combat aircraft to a high level of fidelity. This fidelity extends not just to the individual cockpits and aircraft systems, but also to the employment of weapons, and tactics. Many real life pilots and military flight sim enthusiasts use DCS as a training tool for at-home practice. That being said, the game does have limitations in how it simulates naval and ground vehicles, particularly in its depiction of the sensors and fire control on those platforms. Controlling an armored vehicle in DCS is nowhere near as detailed as in a genuine armored vehicle simulator like Steel Beasts. Controlling a naval vessel in DCS isn’t nearly as detailed as a game like Dangerous Waters.

A Frustrating Foray into Naval Action Games

For a brief period in the early 2010s, after getting hooked on naval games with Silent Hunter 4, I began looking for other naval-themed games set in WWII. For a time, I played the more action-oriented games like Battlestations: Midway and Pacific. Additionally, I also played World of Warships…for a time. However, my craving for a more realistic style of gameplay ultimately soured me on these games.

Here I was playing WWII-themed naval action (read: non-simulator) games and critically examining their gameplay mechanics, usage of tactics, and history.

To be clear, these aren’t necessarily “bad” games. In terms of genre, mechanics, and overall graphics, the games work well and do what they’re designed to do. So in that regard, there’s no real problem. My problem with these games lies in the dumbed-down arcade-style action elements to them (not to mention the rather silly or non-existent interpretation of history in them). Remember that I came from playing SH4, a simulator that emphasized patience, study, and long-term thinking. So, I was particularly biased (and not a little spoiled). In contrast, the Battlestations and World of Warships games are very easy to pick-up and play. They’re more based on reflexes, instant action, and instant gratification.

The result was a sort of cognitive dissonance. I knew I was playing arcade-style naval action games with flashy graphics and little historical substance to them, but my mind was conditioned to want deeper mechanics and historical authenticity.

Let’s examine some of the problems from each game separately as we apply the Game Mechanic Logic Test.

Battlestations Midway & Pacific

I’ll refer to Battlestations: Midway and Battlestations: Pacific as BS:M and BS:P, respectively.

Problems with gameplay mechanics

  • The ships handle like they’re gliding along a glassy, smooth plane. They don’t lose any speed in the turn. They accelerate up to flank speed and decelerate down to full stop unbelievably fast.
  • Regardless of how close an enemy ship is, all the naval guns elevate to their maximum angle and fire like they’re land-based artillery providing indirect fire support. Every single shell arcs high up and drops down on the target.
  • The sound effects are weak. Naval gunfire sounds like somebody lightly banging on a metal trash can.
  • Fire control in the game is merely a simple matter of pointing your reticle at an enemy ship and firing the guns. BS:M still required you to lead the target, but BS:P didn’t even require that.

Problems with tactics

  • Ships can be manually arranged into any formation you choose (which is a good thing), but there are so few instances were this makes any difference to the gameplay (apart from hunting submarines or basic air defense).
  • Operational factors are heavily simplified. Ammo and fuel aboard ships and aircraft are unlimited. (However, aircraft can only carry a limited number of bombs and rockets before needing to return to the ship to rearm.)

Problems with history

  • In BS:M, you play as a fictional U.S. naval officer who speaks in cliched catchphrases and takes part in every other major naval action in the first six months of the Pacific War (up to the Battle of Midway). BS:P does away with the silly storyline and instead focuses on a more abstract campaign that showcases various historic naval battles after the Battle of Midway.
  • In BS:M, the Japanese characters actually speak in Japanese. BS:P does away with the Japanese dialogue and has the Japanese sailors speak in poorly-accented English. It’s borderline racist. “Me speekee goodee Engrish!”
  • There are numerous historical inaccuracies in both the missions and the ship models. Since the games have a limited number of ship models, they reuse many of the same models for entirely different ship classes. For example, BS:P depicts the Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal as taking place in broad daylight, as well as depicting the USS Washington as a South Dakota-class battleship. Anyone who’s studied the history can tell you that both Naval Battles of Guadalcanal took place at night, and that the USS Washington was a North Carolina-class battleship. That’s just two examples of many inaccuracies in the games.

In short, the Battlestations series is a joke to history and the arcade-style game mechanics make for a rather mediocre gameplay experience.

World of Warships

Part of the World of ____ series of free-to-play, massively multiplayer online games from the developer, Wargaming.net. There also exists World of Tanks (WoT) and World of Warplanes (WoWp). I’ll just be covering my thoughts on World of Warships, since that’s the only game of the series that I played. I’ll refer to it as WoWs.

Problems with gameplay mechanics

  • Like Battlestations, the ships behave like they’re gliding along a smooth plane.
  • The firing mechanics do require leading the target, but the fire control solution is as simple as aiming the reticle at the target and adding some lead. Lead for torpedoes is automatically calculated.
  • Control of aircraft carriers and aircraft is more of like a real-time strategy game. The player controls both the ship and the aircraft, but they can only control one at a given time, leaving the other vulnerable. Air operations are also greatly simplified.
  • The maps are varied, but very constrained for naval battles. This is probably to maintain a reasonable framerate since it’s a multiplayer game, but the distances in-game are very close for the distances that some of the naval guns can historically shoot. Essentially, the majority of combat takes place at point-blank range. Additionally, all of the maps feature a convenient amount of cover in the form of islands. Only one map takes place on the open sea.
  • All ships have conveniently color-coded health bars making it easy to distinguish friendlies from enemies and letting other players know how many life points they have before they’ll catastrophically explode and sink to the bottom.

Problems with tactics

  • The multiplayer-only aspect of the game means the battles turn into a team-based melee, and occasionally, a free-for-all. There’s little coordination between friendly forces. The game could really use a tactical commander for each side to give orders to the other players.
  • As with any massively multiplayer-only game, there’s bound to be toxic players. Foul language, ad hominem attacks, friendly-fire “team kills,” and general idiocy is par for the course. There’s not much in the way of cohesion or comradeship which would make teams successful in these types of games.
  • Since players can choose vessels from the many different available nations, the resulting teams are inevitably a hodge-podge of different vessels from different nations with different capabilities. There’s little incentive for working together as a cohesive task force. Again, it turns into a free-for-all with no tactical cohesion.
  • There’s unlimited ammo for guns and torpedoes. The reload time for torpedoes is unrealistically quick. If it were realistic, then you’d only get one or two reloads for the torpedoes before a 15 minute match was over.

Problems with history

  • There’s no overriding historical narrative to the game, apart from the fact that all the ships are of WWII vintage. The 15-minute multiplayer death matches and the fact that players can choose from a variety of historical vessels from various countries precludes the possibility of a narrative. (It’s basically like Counter-Strike, but with warships.) In other words, a bunch of ships meet and shoot at each other with no operational or strategic reasoning.
  • Each ship’s armor layout and weapons outfit are more or less historically accurate, although the player only has direct control over the main battery, torpedoes, and aircraft (the latter two, if carried). The secondary and tertiary batteries fire automatically if something comes within range.

A big irony about World of Warships/Tanks/Warplanes is that the developer frequently plasters its website with lots of articles and videos on historical material (vehicles & battles). Yet, for all the time and money that Wargaming puts into the historical research for their games, they’re still just free-to-play action games with little to offer die-hard simulation fans and historians, apart from pretty graphics. Although, perhaps it’s unreasonable to expect anything more from a game that’s free.

As if to illustrate the point further, Nicholas Moran, AKA The Chieftain, works as the “militaria relations director” for Wargaming North America. His personal Youtube channel is filled with excellent videos containing information on real-world armored vehicles. In many of his videos, Moran will visit museums, walk around a preserved vehicle, look inside, and sit in the various crew positions. He’ll discuss its characteristics, use in combat, and physical features. In addition to being a military historian, Moran is also a U.S. Army officer and tanker who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The information Moran provides viewers is so in-depth and well-researched that stands apart from the information provided in (in this case) World of Tanks. Essentially, it’s a sharp juxtaposition between the arcade-style of gameplay in WoT, and Moran’s own historical knowledge and real-life understanding of armored warfare and tank doctrine. In fact, Moran acknowledges this and notes that WoT is somewhat accurate in terms of the tank tactics individual players use, but beyond that much of it doesn’t make sense. I just watch his Youtube channel for the historical and educational content.

“An Army/Crew of One” Problem

As I mentioned in my post on Task Force Admiral, one of my biggest issues with naval action games (Battlestations and World of Warships) is what I call the “army/crew of one” problem. This is where the player is in control of every aspect of operating the unit/ship. In the case of naval games, the player conns (steers/directs) the ship, operates the fire control directors, fires the all the weapons, repairs any damage, etc. Much of this is all done with a single button press and events that would take time in real life, instead take mere seconds or minutes. More broadly, they make it seem like the entire battle, campaign, war is hinging on a single person’s actions (the player). There’s not much in the way of teamwork, even when dealing with A.I. allies. None of these games make it feel like I’m part of a crew. To me, a ship is a massive assortment of systems that need to be managed, and a large crew that needs to be led. A single person can’t do it alone. The “army/crew of one” mechanic is a big immersion-breaker for me. Instead of feeling like I’m in command of a massive warship with hundreds or thousands of crew members, instead it feels like I’m playing with a little toy battleship in the bathtub.

I rule out ARMA 3 as simulating an effective squad because the A.I. is so poorly programmed that it feels artificial and the player is literally better off by themselves. There have been numerous occasions where I’ve ordered my A.I. teammates to stay put while I go off and do the mission alone because they’re more of a liability than anything. SH4 is the only simulator I’ve played that came the closest to simulating an effective crew. True, the player did many of the things that other crew members would realistically handle aboard the submarine, and the player could jump into the role of, for example, the deck gun crew. However, there was a crew management mechanic and individual crew members would gain experience and skill as time went on. In another example, if the player were to leave the crew at general quarters for an inordinate amount of time, they would all eventually become exhausted and no longer able to function. Subsequently, the submarine will literally stop dead in the water, and no matter what orders the player gave, nothing would happen. This game mechanic went a long way towards making the submarine feel alive and more than just a single-player experience.

“It’s time to quit”

While these naval action games look nice, I grew tired of the online multiplayer gameplay. What soured me the most about these games is that, much like with Call of Duty‘s multiplayer, I found the online gaming community to be very immature, and more often than not, toxic. The multiplayer aspect ultimately turned the gameplay into a free-for-all and lacked any cohesive command and doctrinal elements. The chat frequently turned into a mudslinging barrage of ad hominem and foul language. It’s a multiplayer game…what do you expect, right? Still, I just didn’t have time for that garbage.

Understandably, everyone has different tastes. While I’ve complained quite a bit about these games, the truth is that they appeal to a very broad audience, and they’re easy to pick up and play. However, watching people just run around and shoot at each other over and over, game after game, becomes very repetitive for me. I had to ask myself, “what are we trying to accomplish here?” World of Warships is just a bunch of ships in a relatively small area that sail around and shoot at each other. Some matches have a “capture-the-area” mechanic, but there’s no strategic or operational rationale for why anything is occurring.

The Battlestations series at least had some story/campaign that very loosely followed history, but I felt let down by the simplistic mechanics. Not to mention that much of the historicity in the games was laughable. After a while, my time playing BS:M, BS:P, and WoWs just wore me down. I was like, “Ugh! I can’t take this crap anymore! The players are raging idiots, there’s no sense of teamwork or cohesion, and the gameplay is too dumbed down. I’m outta here!” Thus ended my time with naval action games.

At the end of the day, these arcade-style action games are good for introducing players to the vehicles and some basic historical knowledge, but anything more advanced will require players to look elsewhere. Similarly, players looking for a simulator or a game where they can apply real-world knowledge to a more in-depth degree will need to cast a wider net.

Onwards With Operations Simulators

After deciding to quit playing ARMA 3, BS:M, BS:P, and WoWs over issues with game mechanics, depiction of tactics, A.I., and historicity, I decided to move on back to playing simulators. The question was what simulator to play? Obviously, there are tons of serious simulators out there, both old and new, that cover virtually any genre and theme from science fiction to medieval warfare, but realistically I have a limited amount of time and money on my hands. Many of my friends recommended that I play ____ simulation from the 80s, 90s or early-2000s, but I wanted a game that was modern and would continue to stay supported by the developer. So that ruled out any legacy software.

After doing some research, and not a little bit of introspection, I decided that I wanted a game that was built from the get-go as a naval warfare simulator and a war game. I could handle certain simplified mechanics, but I really wanted a game that stayed true to history, rewarded in-depth study, and could be used to simulate a variety of scenarios. Thus, I needed a simulator that was heavily configurable and with a good mission editor.

Having grown up in the 80s and 90s, I had heard of the Harpoon series of computer war games by Larry Bond. However, I never played any of those games. Around 2013, Command: Modern Air/Naval Operations (CMANO) by Warfare Sims was released. Billed as something of a spiritual successor to Harpoon, I was initially intimidated by the game’s steep learning curve and only decided to buy it in 2015.

After taking some time to at least learn the fundamentals, I discovered that CMANO was much closer to what I was looking for. Here was a piece of software that required some serious study to become proficient at. After only a few years of playing CMANO, Warfare Sims released its successor, Command: Modern Operations (CMO) in 2019; essentially CMANO version 2.0.

I’ve already written about the game at length, so I’m not going to repeat myself here. However, the range of different scenarios possible with the editor and the game’s databases is impressive. These scenarios could be anything related to naval or air operations. For example, surface naval battles, amphibious assaults, air battles, carrier air strikes, anti-submarine warfare, naval mining/minesweeping, logistics/cargo, etc. You can create scenarios that are completely hypothetical, ridiculous, or historical.

What’s always in the back of my mind when playing Command (and one of things I really appreciate about it) is that it’s designed from the ground up as a serious war gaming tool. It’s not even that pretty to look at, and at times, it’s not exactly “fun” to play. But, that’s not the point. It foregoes the flashy graphics and simplistic game mechanics to instead focus on having the player study and apply realistic operational methods to problems. What the player derives from the study of operations (and war gaming) concepts is far more important than being entertained. Although, many war gamers do, in fact, derive entertainment from the educational value of studying those concepts and hypothetical scenarios. In fact, many academic military institutions and related companies use the professional versions of Command for that very purpose. (See Part 1 where we defined the purpose of war gaming.) Essentially, it’s on the complete opposite end of the gaming spectrum from games like BS:M, and BS:P, and WoWs.

Metagaming in Command & Tactical Abstraction

I’ve already applied the metagaming concept to Command in the previous post, but I’ll just reiterate a few ideas here. The few issues I do have with Command are mostly due to the limitations of the game’s engine and the era(s) it simulates. Due to the need to cover such a wide time range and variety of systems, Command largely abstracts combat down to a mathematical (probabilistic) model. Furthermore, while it does simulate decision-making processes, it does so in a fairly detached way. Since it’s more about getting the appropriate assets in the right place at the right time, it operates more like a real-time strategy game. Subsequently, the interface and scenario outcomes feel a bit sterile and the game lacks immersion.

Does this mean that Command is a bad game? Of course not. It just means that we should be knowledgeable about what the game is designed for. Given the abstraction and the fact that you’re not doing any of the “trigger pulling,” this firmly places the game within the realm of an operations simulator, as is noted in the title itself and in the manual. Despite it’s faults, Command‘s A.I. is far better programmed and more capable than ARMA‘s A.I. In fact, the more I play, study, and learn about Command, the more I’m boggled about how detailed certain aspects of it are. Given the capabilities of Command, I suspect it’ll be far more versatile as a learning tool than the other simulators I’ve played.

Straddling the Line Between Tactical & Operational

While my ongoing experience with playing (and learning) Command is valuable, I’ll admit that the experience is a bit dry and leaves something to be desired. There’s already enough naval action games and fighter plane simulators out there. What I really want from a simulator is something that immerses the player in naval combat with an emphasis on command-and-control.

No, I’m not talking about something like FTL. I don’t want a game that gives you a top-down perspective like a real-time strategy game, because that lacks immersion. I want the feeling of standing on the bridge (and/or flag bridge) and managing a competent crew (and/or ships). As the game progresses, the crew(s) gain experience and you need to put them in the right positions of responsibility. As the war goes on, your ship(s) slowly become outfitted with better weapons and sensors. (As previously mentioned, SH4 came close to this.) Basically, I want a game that’s more than just you against the enemy, but rather your crew and ship(s) against the enemy. Teamwork, coordination, and crew/systems management will win the battles. This would be a nice blend of tactics and operations.

Indeed, there have been a number of games in the past that have attempted to combine elements from the tactical and operational levels of war. Though I never played it, one such game was Task Force: 1942 released in 1992. This game, and games like it, put the player in the role of a naval task force commander. The idea was to immerse the player in the battle itself, but with focus on making decisions in the midst of combat. This is in contrast to Command, or similar real-time strategy games, where the player functions as more of a near omniscient game master.

As it turns out, an upcoming game called Task Force: Admiral (TF:A), does seem to be an attempt to straddle the area between tactical and operations. I’ve already given my initial thoughts on this game, so I won’t repeat myself here. Things may certainly change as its development continues, but I’ll be keeping an eye on it. It just might be the simulation gaming experience I’m looking for. While it probably won’t surpass Command in terms of flexibility, its focus on WWII in the Pacific is right up my alley in terms of historical research. I don’t expect it to solve all of my issues related to war games and simulators (hopefully it doesn’t turn into a huge development disaster), but if all goes well and they produce a decent product, then I think it’ll be a step in the right direction for me.

Final Thoughts on Personal Gaming Experiences

Admittedly, video games are a pretty subjective topic and dependent on individual taste. I certainly don’t mean to imply that my journey with console and PC gaming is somehow the ideal or superior way to go. I suppose it’s pretty much to each their own. In fact, at the time of writing (late-2020), I find that I hardly do much gaming compared to even a few years ago. The reality is that real life has overtaken my gaming life, and much of my time is actually taken up by my work. My remaining taking free time is taken up by reading, studying, and writing.

As I’ve gotten older and more mature, I’ve come to realize that I’ve taken video games a bit too seriously at times, particularly when I was younger. It’s not unlike how some people take sports to fanatical levels. After all, is there really much of a difference with people who watch others play video games on Youtube versus those who spend hours in front of the TV watching others play sports?

“Why do you spend hours watching other people play video games when you can play them yourself?” asks a parent.

Well…”Why do you sit in front of the TV for hours drinking beer and watching people chase a ball around a field?” responds the child.

One quote (perhaps apocryphally) attributed to famous writer Ernest Hemingway is:

There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.

His rationale being that there’s a high probability of the participant facing mortal danger in those activities, whereas everything else is done in relative safety. Disregarding those three specific sports noted by Hemingway, a similar sentiment can be applied to the contrast between things which are created for entertainment, and things which are as a form of self-improvement through physical and/or mental challenge. I’m not saying that everything we do has to equate to life or death, or that we can’t do things solely for the sake of being entertained. I frequently enjoy some mindless entertainment. Rather, I often find myself asking, “what are we taking away from all of this by getting so fanatical about it? It’s just a game!” At the same time, as I’ve played more simulators, I’ve found it much more difficult to take arcade-style action games seriously. They’re still entertaining and fun to play, but I’ve moved more towards an intellectual style of gaming as opposed to the whole shoot ’em up, kill ’em all, Rah, Rah, Rah, Leeroy Jenkins style of fast-paced shooters.

My point is that there’s not a lot of import with regard to how much games (video games, sports, etc.) affect real life beyond what is mostly an individual level. The same goes for other pieces of entertainment (movies & music). Yes, I’ve played games or watched movies that I’ll always fondly remember, but by itself, I’ve never felt that a piece of entertainment has profoundly changed my life. Even as an athlete when I played soccer, basketball, or was competing on a national level in martial arts, it was all just a game to me and had manufactured outcomes (winners/losers, medals and trophies). When it was all over, everyone went home. The by-products of martial arts, such as self-discipline, physical fitness, and mental awareness were far greater rewards than any medal. Even war games and simulators have a distinct artificiality to them when you compare them to the real thing. Operating a real WWII fleet boat is nowhere near as easy as pushing buttons in SH4. Sure, the game is entertaining, but when put into historical context, real people fought and died in WWII. I’m just sitting at my computer and shooting at pixels. In the end, games are games, and real life has real consequences. It’s important that we clearly distinguish between the two.

Subsequently, I’ve found that it’s very difficult to put a price on the knowledge gained from learning, and my time is far better spent doing things other than gaming. Of course, I still am interested in gaming and I have a few games on my wish list to play in the future, but much of my time that was previously spent on gaming is now spent pursuing my academic and research interests. The return on that is far higher (in terms of intrinsic value) than a video game that will ultimately come and go in a few years. There will always be new games and new technology to surprise us. Thus, I’ve tried to find a balance where I can apply my study of military history with computer war gaming and game-based learning. The shelf-life of knowledge lasts longer than a piece of software.

This post is largely focused on my experiences with PC gaming simulators and simulation-esque games. It would be unrealistic to have covered every single console or PC game I’ve ever played. The speed at which technology and personal computing has advanced in the past few decades is nothing short of astounding. What seemed advanced at the time, 20-30 years ago, looks ancient nowadays. Heck, we can look back just ten years to 2010 and see a significant difference in technology. In the long term, we can see trends in gaming as time has progressed and we have a few generations that have now grown up playing video games. Games, like other forms of popular culture, are very much subject to the whims of public consciousness and technological capabilities. I’m excited to see how much video games and simulations will further advance in the near future and look forward to what kinds of capabilities future technology will bring to gaming.

War games have a long history that goes back to way before personal computers. No doubt, simulations will continue to adapt to modern technological platforms while many people will still prefer more traditional methods of play. When it comes to war games and conflict simulations, it should be pretty clear that my experience with them is limited to computer games. I have nothing against traditional pen-and-paper and tabletop simulations, but I don’t play them due to time, money, and storage space limitations. PC games and digital war games are simply more convenient.

I enjoy war games for the research and study that they engender in players. The detail-oriented and methodical approach they require appeals to my thinking. Not to mention that the educational value inherent in them can be applied to a variety of fields. I don’t mean to dismiss the more action-oriented, pick-up-and-play games. They definitely have their place and their appeal. I enjoy a good first-person-shooter or action game every now and then. I’ve also got my eye on a few other non-simulation games I’d like to play in the future, as well (whenever I get around to building a new computer). However, I’ve slowly come to the realization that there are more rewarding things in my life than gaming. I’ll still game, but not as much as I used to.

References

WarfareSims.com. (2019). Game Manual Command: Modern Operations. Matrix Games.

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