Navy Seals virtual unreality

Screen shot of combat sim hours you can log at home
You hear soldiers in today’s documentaries make the crack all the time: “[Iraq] isn’t a computer game.” In war you get injured, you die, and it’s all for keeps. Yet the military still uses virtual combat games to interest recruits. In the Navy Seals game, you get to fight side by side as part of a team. And sacrificing individual for the good of the team hints at what real military service requires. First Person Shooters differ from real war zone experience in that very fundamental manner.

In a video game, because you’re your own center of the universe, you decide what action to take. You move forward or don’t. You decide how to do it and when. In real war, you are following orders. You may be taking fire, you may see a better action than the one you are ordered to do, you don’t get to do it. You are subjected to the violence, not raining it upon someone else.

In a video game, after each successful run, you advance to another level, you are rewarded for your talent, your sense of initiative is offered a greater challenge and the promise of more after that. In real war, you return to base and start again at the same task. Each exposure increasing your chance of getting hurt or killed. There are no saves, there are no energy-replentishing packs, there is no instant healing. Your injuries accrue, your load becomes more difficult to bear as the mission goes on, you run low and run out. And if you succeed, you are expected to succeed again.

In real war, you are a checker piece which is never kinged. You do not ascend to the next terrain, earn extra weapons for your at-hand inventory, find and don protective cloaks. You are a pawn ever expendable. You incur injury, and injured enough, you die, then you’re out.

In real war, you’re like set of brake pads on a car, you serve a purpose. Not a glorious one, not one over which you have any control, but an important task to be sure. You take the heat, you wear out, that’s all. When you’re worn through, you are discarded for another set. How long you lasted is to the credit of your commanding officer in the driver’s seat. Your score adds to his. The end.

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Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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