Whether you agree or not or even like it or not, modern era military shooters are arguably the most popular genre of video game right now, especially if the metric for gauging this status is pre-orders, sales, online activity and pretty much any other factor you may choose to use. Gamers love playing modern era military shooters.
I’m no different. I love military shooters. I play all of them – the Battlefield series, the Ghost Recon series, the Modern Warfare series, the Operation Flashpoint series, ARMA, Black Ops, Medal of Honor – played them all and loved them all. I always thought I was biased because I’m in the military, so it just seemed natural. I know a lot of military people and they seem to love these games too. But clearly these games aren’t just popular because military folks are playing them. There has to be something else. So, what is it?
Do gamers simply like playing games from the time period they’re living in?
I don’t know if it’s that simple.
As far as shooters go, there is a broad spectrum of time periods available. For a while it seemed like WWII era games were as popular as the zombie mode is today. There are several big name titles that started off in this time period including both Call of Duty and Medal of Honor. There are a handful of games that occur prior to WWII; from WWI to the Civil War and even as far back as the Chinese dynasty. Most of these games are either strategy or something other than First Person Shooters. I dunno, but I’m guessing playing a First Person Shooter from the Revolutionary War would be a little frustrating – what, shoot and reload in just under a minute and do it all over again. I’m not a big fan of pre-WWII games, largely because of the weapons. At least in the WWII era we start to see weapons like the Thompson submachine gun and the STG 44.
Then of course there are the Viet Nam era inspired video games. Slightly less popular but there are a few games from this period. Viet Nam era games are okay. Still not my favorites. The firearm selection is more to my liking as we see the introduction of the M-16 and the AK-47 but since this conflict was so controversial and kind of divided the nation, I just never really liked playing games that occur during this time. It might be because my dad was there, uncle was there, and father in law was there. I’ve heard lots of war stories and see how it still haunts them, so I never felt right playing the games. I’m not bothered or offended by them; I just don’t like playing them.
I’ll skip over the current generation inspired military shooters and come back to them in a minute, since that’s kind of the focus of this blog.
But on the other side of the spectrum we have futuristic military shooters. Games like Battlefield 2142, Doom, Halo, Crysis, Resistance and Gears of War all take place in the distant future (and a make believe one at that) and have a degree of military presence. They’re good games, no, great games. But they’re not nearly as popular as the modern era military shooters that have their stranglehold on the industry right now. Even Halo, in all its magnificence (and coincidentally my favorite game of all time), struggles to keep in cadence with the likes of Modern Warfare.
So, what makes the modern era military shooter so popular?
Is it the weapon selection? Do gamers prefer modern era weapons like the M4 or SCAR? Or is it the real world setting? Do gamers like these games because the environments and locations they occur in are often actual places that exist today? Maybe it’s because they can relate to the scenarios and story; sometimes they are often loosely based off of real world events; somewhat exaggerated but often there is a connection.
I don’t think it’s necessarily the game play or the modes as these components of the game are comparable to other games. The same can be said for the perks, achievements and control schemes. Yep, all very similar.
To demonstrate this point, just look at any of the video game websites anytime they post something about the upcoming release of Battlefield 3 or the next episode of Modern Warfare. The crowd goes wild with giddy excitement. It might be a bit presumptuous, but given the trend Modern Warfare has in the past, and who knows maybe Battlefield too, I wouldn’t be surprised if one or both of these games sets the pre-order record, the sales record, most gamers online playing a game record and who knows what other records. It’s inevitable.
In the end, I’m not sure why these games are so popular. I just know there are.