November 25, 2012

Fog Of (Video Game) War

Real time strategy gaming gets the attention and observation that it deserves. Finally.

I gamed on the first person shooter and open world genres for what seemed like forever until I eventually learned of the glory of real time strategy in Supreme Commander 2.

By this time over six years of Call of Duty had rotted my brain beyond any formidable level of improving or learning from the environment. In the FPS market, gamers are generally pretty easy to woo with new DLC packs and rehashed maps for the inconvenience of 50 dollar season passes and online services that should be free in the first place.

Activision made this perfectly clear for four consecutive years.

So when I began my first dive into the RTS genre of video games it was at a time when I had no confidence nor any level of intelligence about strategy or time management. A disaster, really. The design and layout of this game intrigued my interest but I wasn’t comprehending the nature of the atmosphere.

Why were we playing Supreme Commander 2?

It wasn’t long until my first victory inevitably came, and in many ways I still feel as if that victory was simply a courtesy of the makers of the game. I hadn’t felt like I truly won anything. It wasn’t like the no scope or skillful grenade throw that I had been replicating in Halo for so long. Nor was it about the incredibly skillful drift that I accomplished in Forza 3, or the insane run back interception that I scored in Madden ’12.

This was a true test of my wits.

I cared less and less about the design of the game a hell of a lot more about the mind of my opponent. The reasoning behind rushing my fortress with 200+ land units, and then retreating only ten seconds into the assault. The reason for firing only two tactical nukes at a base clearly designed to hold at least ten anti nuke stations, or halting an assault force only fifty clicks away from a base not designed for defense.

Testing my gall.

Supreme Commander 2 defined for me about Real Time Strategy what I had never understood, nor thought I would discover in a video game. I was actually making a connection with an opponent that I hadn’t seen nor met-I understood an invisible character behind the gamer tag.

By far the most impressive of the Real Time Strategy games that I dipped my toes into was Total War Shogun 2. Not to say that its predecessors weren’t equally as formidable-I just hadn’t played those. What attracts most to the surface of Total War is the mentioning of the fact that, if your PC can handle it, you can pit over 10,000 18th century samurai warriors against another 10,000 with graphical and technical ease. Its one of those games that is a treat to view even when your not playing.

By far the most impressive aspect of it is how crucial the environment is to a victory: You cannot allow your enemy to take control of the high ground-they’ll never leave. You cannot venture into the forest territory without first sending scouts ahead to scan for enemy snipers. Never charge an army into the middle of a grass field if you are not sure that surrounding hills do not hold entire legions of Calvary units waiting to sink their swords into your units hearts.

Rules. Rules. Rules.

It takes entire months, sometimes years before the natural aesthetic of the game sinks into your blood and you comfortably sink a victory victory. Games like these are the refinement of how we comprehend what it is to be a military tactician.

But lets not compare and contrast real with fiction. Rather, we should try and understand that video games were invented as a form of hobby and eventually bestowed with the goal to portray as realistic of settings as was technically possible. It is with that same goal that Total War can be compared to military strategy.

You know, because its a military strategy game.

Difference being of course that thousands of young men’s  lives are not wasted purely for my enjoyment, but its the next best thing!!!

RTS’s aren’t for everyone, I’m afraid. Its simply too demanding of a genre for some and a much harsher commitment for many others. But for those who can spare the time and frustration to make a courageous exploration, I can confidently tell you that you will steer quite clear of disappointment if you manage to sink that glorious victory.

It’s a whole new world.

Image Credit: Photos.com

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