For the past few days, I’ve been watching as my boyfriend tore through Spec Ops. It’s a remarkable game: beautiful graphics, realistic characters who are truly affected by their choices, and a combat system that works very well with the player. However, while all of these factors are important, the most significant aspect of the game is its ability to force gamers to take another look at violence.
Most war games alienate the victims and enemies of the player. The targets you face are just that: inanimate objects, ones without realistic goals or emotions. In Spec Ops, this is not the case. The enemy you’re fighting isn’t comprised of random “bogies”, but is, in fact, a mixture of civilians, some foreign militia, and soldiers that used to be on your side. On top of this, they all have goals that are independent of “kill the player”, and the major characters in question all have proper reasoning for why they are doing what they’re doing.
Now, I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’m going to keep this rather close-lipped. Those of you who’ve played Spec Ops will know what I’m talking about exactly, though. Perhaps the most meaningful scene in the game is a criticism of a popular airborne sequence that occurs in every Modern Warfare title. You are treated to a view of dots from above, each of these vague shapes representative of a person. In most war games, you’re simply told to wipe out the dots and never have to see the consequences of your actions.
That’s not the case in Spec Ops.
In Spec Ops‘ version of this sequence, the player is forced to walk through the carnage. Not only that, but you also learn a heartbreaking lesson about shooting first – that bit I told you about how the “enemy” has realistic goals and isn’t comprised entirely of mindless villains? Yeah, that’ll punch you in the gut, here.
In the United States, at least, Spec Ops is the perfect starter for a discussion the industry has needed for a long time. We are often dismissive of conversations surrounding violence in gaming, but there comes a point where, regardless of your stance, that violence needs to be dissected and understood. Games don’t kill people, but they do sometimes train us to think of other people as inanimate objects; a little reminder that the “tangos” you shoot in games are representative of people just like you is key to resisting this.
Long story short? Play the hell out of Spec Ops. It’ll make you think. Just remember at the end: You Are Still A Good Person.