There were no whiny anti-war Hollywood types or questionable war motives or granola-munching protesters. I'm starting to think that even World in Conflict, a real time strategy game so "realistic" it takes a NASA-built Quantum supercomputer to run it, has left me woefully unprepared to fight an actual war.
Well, below is my open letter to the real time strategy gaming cartel. I want a war simulation. A real one. I don't want little cartoon tanks jostling around in a video sandbox chewing down each other's health meters, while a preteen opponent insults my sexuality using every key on his keyboard except the ones with letters. I want an RTS game that will give me a stress headache after an hour and an ulcer after a week. I want to identify experienced players on the street by their 1,000-yard stares.
I want a war sim ...
1. ... where I spend two hours pushing across a map to destroy a "nuclear missile silo," only to find out after the fact that it was just a missile-themed orphanage.
2. On the very next level I want to lose half of my units because another "orphanage" turned out to be an enemy ambush site. I want another round of hearings asking why I didn't level that orphanage as soon as I saw it, including tearful testimony from a slain soldier's daughter who is now, ironically, an orphan.
3. Every war sim has a "Fog of War" that obscures the map in darkness until units scout the landscape. Well, I want a hazy, brown "Fog of Bullshit" layer below that. I want it to make a village of farmers look like a secret armed militia, I want it to show me a massive enemy fortress where there is actually an aspirin factory. I want to never know for sure which it was, even after the game is over.
4. I want those awesome rooted monsters from Starcraft that wait until the enemy gets close and then launch tentacles up their asses. Just think of how demoralizing that would have to be.
But, I want to lose points off my Public Support Meter every time one of those monsters accidentally impales a schoolgirl in a horrific bloody mess that will shock all but the Japanese.
5. I want that Public Support Meter to rise and fall according to Troops Lost, Length of Conflict, Innocents Killed and Whether or Not There is Anything Else On TV That Week. I want to lose 200 public-support points because, in a war where 8,000 units have been lost, one of my Mutalisks happened to be caught on video accidentally eating one clergyman. Then, later, my destruction of an entire enemy city will go unnoticed because the Nude Zero-Gravity Futureball championship went into overtime.
6. Speaking of innocents, I want a war sim where native townsfolk stand shoulder-to-shoulder on every inch of the map and not a single bomb can be dropped without blowing 200 of them into chunks. Forget about the abandoned building wallpaper in games like the Red Alert series. I want to have to choose between sending marines door-to-door to be killed in the streets or leveling the block from afar, Nuns and all. I want to have to choose between 40 dead troops or 400 dead children, and be damned to hell by chubby pundits from the safety of their studios regardless of which way I go.
7. I want my Mission Objectives to change every 30 seconds, without anyone letting me know. I want little talking heads to pop up on my screen--commanders, politicians, allies, military intelligence--each giving me different sets of victory parameters, all of them conflicting and many of them written in bullshit ass-covering doublespeak.
8. I want CIA field agents that operate completely on their own agenda, the little units spreading clouds of brown wherever they go. When I try to take out enemy weapons scientists, I'll find out said agents have spirited them away and put them on the payroll.
9. I want a super-cool custom-weapons lab where I can design mech armor for my infantry with wicked acid-tipped missiles and guns that shoot spiders. Then I want to watch as 100 men are cooked alive in the desert because of a defect in the internal air conditioning units that shorted due to condensation in the fusion coils and insufficient insulation in the wiring units bypassing the laser reactor core, due to the contractor's decision to use over-the-counter components instead of the military-grade ones mandated in Subsection 12:94A, Paragraph B of the Military Weapons Platform Procurement Act of 3013, a document that is 14,724 pages long and contains some 81,301 loopholes that allow congressmen to bypass component testing and funnel lucrative military contracts to cut-rate suppliers from their home districts at the peak of every election cycle.
10. Geneva Convention be damned, I want to drop Anthrax.
11. Gamers complain about bad "pathfinding" (that is, your units wandering around the map and falling into the river against your orders). Well, I want worse pathfinding. I want entire platoons who wander into the mountains because somebody bled on the map. I want tanks to get stuck turret-deep in mud flats and have to be rescued by helicopters while snipers pick off soldiers trying to keep their boots from being sucked off their feet in muck.
12. I want mutinous units that chain smoke hash and frag their seargents and sell heroin on the side and rogue commanders who go mad and shave their heads and set up fortresses in the jungle decorated with human skulls. I want to have to send a CIA assassin in to take him out. And, then they chop up a donkey, for some reason.
13. I want factions. Not a simple aliens vs. humans or Russians vs. Americans war orgy. I want to share the map with powerful forces who are not friend or foe or anything else, a news media, private corporations, asshole allies and friendly enemies, everyone jockeying for their own interests and me unable to bend over at any moment without turning my codpiece around first. I want a France.
14. I want fat, left-wing documentarians carefully editing the only the most incriminating footage, countered only by low-IQ country music singers crooning my praises while in American flag-colored cowboy hats.
15. About every five minutes, I want one of my helicopters to crash, completely on its own, for some fucking reason.
16. I want one-fourth of my casualties to come from friendly fire and non-combat or training accidents. I want a big-name hero unit who rallies the troops with his Magical Sword of Slaying, only to be killed when an ammo crate falls off a loading dock.
There should also be simultaneous stories about the outrageous expense of the war effort, and another about how the troops are under-funded and under-equipped. Set it so that I somehow lose public-support points with each story.
18. I want to be able to build a POW camp structure where enemy soldiers and suicide bombers are held should they somehow survive battle or should their suicide bombing only be half-successful. I want to right-click on the building and open an option that says "Interrogate Prisoners," which will make parts of the map open up and reveal enemy positions, saving my own units from ambushes.
Then, I want a little cut scene to pop up to announce that photos of my prisoner interrogations have emerged, sparking international outrage because several prisoners were upset and humiliated and some even physically harmed.
The whole world is shocked, it says, because people were physically harmed.
In my war.
So, I leave the battlefield ...
... and brush the flaming chunks of bomb victims off my boots to address the worldwide outrage. The game will bring me up on a court martial, everybody pointing out that it was I who clicked the little Interrogation icon. I want to lose tons of public-support points and have every game objective suddenly put in doubt.
19. Now, beating the game will depend on how I play to Ivy League politicians who think a gun is something you hang over your mantlepiece to be occasionally dusted by the maid in your Connecticut summer home. And, when it comes to that point in the game where this panel demands the truth (and says they're "entitled" to the truth) I want a little drop-down menu that will let me tell them that they, in fact, can't handle the truth.
With a couple of clicks (or maybe a hotkey), I'll tell them that we live in a world that has walls and that those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. I will tell them that I have a greater responsibility than they can possibly fathom. They weep for mistreated prisoners and curse the military. They have that luxury. They have the luxury of not knowing what I know, that the naked human pyramid and homoerotic torture, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to them, saves lives.
I'll tell them that they don't want the truth, because deep down, in places they don't talk about at parties, they want me on that wall. They need me on that wall. I'll tell them that I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to men who rise and sleep under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then question the manner in which I provide it.
I'd rather they just said "thank you" and went on their way. Otherwise, I'd suggest they pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what they think they're entitled to.
20. I want better death animations.