This is Not a Game

(Brother in Arms: Earned in Blood, PC)

I bought this as part of a video game deal not really knowing much about it, but I’ve always been curious about these video game recreations of WW2 battles. Maybe I hadn’t shelled out before because I felt vaguely guilty about spending my time exploring humbling historical experiences in something as frivolous as a video game. I seem to have hit gold though. The producers of this game have been well aware of the touchy subject and awesome responsibility of documenting real life accounts in a medium that could quickly become crass.With historical advisor’s and location scouting more worthy of a movie production, this game has finally edged my acceptance counter into this medium being able to cut it along with the more established film industry.

I wasn’t expecting a shooter that I could run around in and impress my friends with, and, sure enough, that’s not what I got, thank God. Actually, I seem to have found what I was looking for. Scene setting. Atmosphere. Well thought out dialogue. Facial animation and characters so well done that they were moving in a way I’ve never seen in a “game” before. I’ve seen Saving Private Ryan, but frankly this seemed far more like an utterly humbling crash course in what you will never learn watching a thousand war films. I like some of what Spielberg does, but Ryan seemed more like an exercise in churning out the Spielberg “touch” than a heartfelt production. I preferred Schindlers List. The master, documentary style, WW2 film of them all is “The Longest Day” which is absolutely essential viewing for anyone interested in this area. It’s a film with a message that doesn’t need over intense battle scenes of ultra sentimentality to tell, and it’s all the more powerful because of that. The Longest Day is thankfully free of the ultra violence that ruined Saving Private Ryan in my opinion. Do we really need to see the horror and the gore to know it’s there ? Replaying it over and over like those old reels of concentration camp atrocities. That’s just desensitising. The audience leaves thinking they’ve had an “experience” when really they’re just numbed. Earned in Blood certainly has it’s share of explosions and, well .. blood, but the producers seemed to have pulled off the impossible in my opinion. How to market a game to the video industry exec’s who just want to sell the latest big virtual guns to teenagers … and make a proper historical recreation as well.

All this, and after playing for a while I turned on BBC Radio 4 to hear some “schmuck” telling us that the allies fought the Second World War only for strategic interests, not morals. Wow. It just adds more fire to the ever growing blaze of my current pet theory (woof!) … that actually the world is only just coming to terms with what happened over 60 years ago. Somehow we think that wars stop on the day victory is declared. Their effects echo down the centuries.

As I look at the current International Space Station Mission, or watch as world affairs sort themselves out after the end of the Cold War, I begin to realise what all those battles were about back there.

DJ Barney

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