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Hey, Gaming Industry! There Was a WWI, You Know

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I know, you probably didn’t come to the Gaming section of your favorite online magazine to read a history lesson, but the gaming industry's perceived fetish for the Second World War is getting ridiculous.

Soon to be released by Treyarch and Activision is Call of Duty: World at War, which is, unsurprisingly, a WWII shooter game. Why the people behind Call of Duty would go with this idea is beyond me. COD4 was an amazing game, set in a fictional future where the USA and Russia were at war, a nice little departure from the Germans. Fun, original — what more could we ask for in a game? Apparently Activision didn’t get the message that the game was fun and inviting to gamers, non-FPS and FPS lovers alike. Even I, an avid anti-fan of shooters, found myself enjoying that one.

So why on earth, after such success, did Activision decide to dive right back into that cesspool that is the World War II game market?

I might even call WWII itself a genre since it's been utilized so much. In fact, I think I will. The WWII game genre has been beaten into the ground, dug up again, beaten back into the ground, set on fire, and beaten even further, repeatedly, over the years. This phenomenon has been getting worse and worse. A search on Wikipedia for WWII-related video games comes up with a whopping (count ‘em!) 182 different games. Considering the video game industry is only about 40 years old, that means that almost 5 different WWII video games a year have been released since 1972. That’s not even counting in the lag caused by the crash of 1983 or the fact that WWII shooters probably weren’t filling the Atari.

Similarly, searching Wikipedia for WWI games brings up a paltry 12. That’s not even close to a single game released per year. (Searches of the Civil War, Revolutionary War and Spanish-American war didn’t bring up anything at all, so I’m not bothering. I’m still not sure why I searched the Spanish-American war, actually.) And to boot, most of those WWI games are simply flight simulators. So what’s going on, gaming industry? There’s a whole untapped resource — several really — available to you guys for making shooters, RTS games, and whatnot. Why not use it? Why continue to throw more and more barrels of WWII games onto the already towering pile?

I suppose the main reason WWII is so popular is because people know exactly what’s going on there these days. When you’ve beaten a WWII shooter, you’ve helped topple Hitler. How many kids these days know exactly what you’re fighting for in a WWI game? Or even WHO you’re fighting against? Never mind the fun factor – WWI simulators could be a fine source of knowledge for the younger history buffs among us. Wouldn't you enjoy learning about battle tactics of the 1910s as you throw chlorine bombs into enemy ditches? Eh? OK, so maybe that's just me.

I think that this over-saturation of WWII games is a serious problem that needs to be stopped. Think about it: the video game market is built on diversity in its product. Too many WWII games isn't just bad for your head, it's bad for the entire market!

Or maybe I'm trying too hard.

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About UZ

  • Jeffrey

    I think that has mainly to do with the fact that being a soldier in WWI mainly involved sitting in a trench picking nits out of your clothes, enduring endless artillery duels over which you had no control, and eventually going over the top and directly into the teeth of unseen machine gun nests before being recalled. That plus the politics that started the war are difficult to convey in the medium of a video game. All in all it just doesn’t make for a particularly entertaining time.

    There have been a number of WWI themed flight simulator games though.

  • http://paulcantplaypiano.blogspot.com Chris “UZ” White

    I’m fairly sure the industry could “creatively bend” the truth to make trench warfare more interesting in game form.

    And if that doesn’t work for you, they could always just trash everything and give us another WWIII.

    In space.

  • Brad Schader

    Mainly because WW2 was the last “good war.” There is no controversy in it for the most part. Vietnam, Iraq, Korea: these wars all have additional political baggage associated with them that could overshadow game play. WW2, for the most part, had a clear cut villain and therefore a clear cut hero. The other wars are more grey as to who exactly was there to help whom.

  • http://tigredelapaz.blogspot.com Gevalher

    I only can say: Bring ‘em on!