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A different look at war, violence, and the games that portray them

Modern Warfare 2 shooting

Offworld just published a really cool story taking a look at violent military-shooters and their relationship with real-world violence in places affected by the very kinds of conflicts portrayed in the games.

But it’s worth reading just for the intro, which depicts a secret Counter-Strike tournament between Hezbollah fighters and Israeli Defense Force soldiers. This might just be the coolest videogame story you’ll read all day.

This is a cool look at game violence because it eschews the typical, “Won’t someone please think of the children?” and instead talks about how realistic, violent games have become incredibly popular in cultures that are already saturated (and even menaced by) real-world violence.

I watched as the “terrorists” cautiously moved forward, taking positions to protect the bomb they had set. The clock ticked down in the corner of the monitor.

“Who is playing?” I asked him.

“Israel and Lebanon” he said.

“Like some sort of video game Olympics?”

“No no no,” and he smiled, “that wouldn’t be a ‘The Great Secret.’” The team of “counterterrorists” threw a couple grenades and started firing, peering around corners and strafing.

“Then who is playing as Israel and Lebanon?”

“IDF,” Halil pitched his screen to the rushing counterterrorist team, “and Hezbollah,” he tilted in the direction of the virtual AK fire. “This is my ‘Middle East Peace Plan.’” He said the phrase derisively, putting on his best American accent.

It’s a great story, one that reminds of another all-time favorite of mine: Vice’s Hezbollah vs. ex-US military paintball game.

But the article is more than a fun series of anecdotes. Author Maxwell Neely-Cohen looks at how various armed forces around the world have tried to harness the power of games to attract recruits or win ideological adherents, but also at how videogames are a powerful medium in an era of falling violence levels worldwide.

For all the hand-wringing about desensitization towards violence, what Neely-Cohen describes is a world where the reality is much simpler. People like shooting things in games, no matter who they are or where they are. And it ultimately, that fact has no real bearing on making “real life” any worse.

Maybe it just makes life a little bit more fun.

Now there’s an entireotherconversation to be had about whether these games present and endorse worldviews that can create problems independent of whether or not gamers engage in violence, but this articles serves as a neat reality-check in a lot of ways.

“War Without Tears”, Maxwell Neely-Cohen — Offworld