Ahead of the release of Terminator: Dark Fate, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s iconic cyborg/character, Terminator T-800, is coming to the Mortal Kombat 11 roster in a crossover we were not expecting.
A gameplay trailer shows T-800 looking like an aged Schwarzenegger wearing jeans and a leather jacket — classic badass outfit. He walks into some kind of military base, making a promise to his soon-to-be opponent: “You will be terminated.”
What follows is gameplay that looks pretty much like the Mortal Kombat games you played as a kid with heavily upgraded (read: gorier) graphics. Case in point: a gunshot from the Terminator reveals the stomach and intestines of his opponent, who somehow lives to fight another day.
The coolest part of the trailer comes when Arnold gets set on fire. He stands up as his human form burning off to reveal the iconic, chromed-out skeleton of the Terminator.
The T-800 comes as part of a downloadable character pack that also includes Shang Tsung, Nightwolf, Sindel, Joker and Spawn. It’s available for Early Access for those with the Kombat Pack or Premium edition of the game on Oct. 8 and Oct.15, 2019, for everyone else.
And if the prospect of fighting as the Terminator is making you want to buy the game, you’re in luck. It’s available on PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, or Google Stadia, one of which you hopefully have lying around already.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Arms races usually take place in a tit-for-tat back and forth. Germany got flamethrowers, so America got trench guns. Russia has more tanks, so America gets the Apache. Sure, the balance of power shifts, but the weapons produced all make logical sense given the context.
Sometimes, however, someone thinks of a weapon or an upgrade that completely shifts the balance of power. These weapons are so out there that it sounds like the responsible nation downloaded some mods to get an edge that nobody could have ever planned for.
The Nest of Bees could fire dozens of rocket-powered arrows.
Nest of bees
The Nest of Bees was a Chinese weapon that worked like a Saturn Missile firework. A group of a couple dozen projectiles, basically arrows with rocket engines, were packed into tubes combined into a single block with one fuse. Warriors would aim at the body of the enemy army, set the fuse alight, and unleash hell.
I’m gonna be honest, I picked this particular furnace image because it looks like Thomas the Tank Engine’s brother died.
Pirate and navy games focus on just a couple of important weapons, none more so than the cannons that ships and forts used to inflict damage on one another. But forts had an advantage that game developers don’t often include — and we’re sure that many would pay for the DLC to get it: Hot shot.
Defenders in a fort would stack cannonballs on open grates or, after the year 1800, in large furnaces. The cannonballs would then be heated for less than an hour to reach red or white-hot heat. Then, they would be fired against enemy ships and siege engines. The heat would transfer into the wood and set the whole thing aflame.
Flaming ammo? Just type “Devil’s Balls” into the chat window and hit enter.
The reputed Claw of Archimedes toppled ships in the Siege of Syracuse, saving the city, according to ancient sources.
The Claw of Archimedes
Archimedes (yeah, the famous one) was tasked with creating defenses for the Carthaginian city of Syracuse. Syracuse was a coastal city with tall walls, but the leaders knew that Rome was building a huge fleet with massive ships to come get them. Archimedes came up with a few solutions, the most famous of which became known as the Claw of Archimedes.
Often described as “automatic crossbows,” the Zhuge Nu and similar designs required the operator to cock the weapon between each shot.
Zhuge Nu semi-automatic crossbow
When faced with enemy archers, wouldn’t it be nice if you could fire 15 shots without reloading while everyone else has to pull new arrows from a quiver like a chump? The Zhuge Nu crossbow carried 10-15 arrows in a wooden box and allowed the operator to quickly fire one arrow after another by simply cocking a wooden block.
Of course, there were trade offs — most importantly in terms of range and accuracy. The weapon was typically accurate to 65 yards. Only put in this cheat code if you’re going to be fighting lots of enemies at medium range.
During the days where most warriors were carrying swords and spears, a few Chinese warriors were lucky enough to get fire lances. These were weapons made of bamboo or iron and then packed with sand near the handle and gunpowder near the tip.
Wielders could use it in a few ways, but the end result was always lighting the fuse and allowing the flames to erupt in someone’s face — sometimes firing a poison dart or other projectile that was packed in the tip in the process. To be the only guy shooting flames and poisonous darts into people’s brain cavities, first create a warrior character and then bust out the Game Genie.
Carlsbad Army Air Force base after a bat bomb test went wrong. You have to admit that the bomb worked.
(U.S. Army Air Force)
Most people have heard about America’s plans to drop bombs filled with lots of live bats on Japanese cities. Now think about what that weapon would look like in a game. “You drop a bomb, and then all of the things inside the bomb fly to your targets and set them on fire.” That’s pretty sweet bomb upgrade — for humans, that is. It’s horrible for the bats.
Of course, the bat bomb project was famously abandoned after it proved too hard to control. So, no American aviators got to take advantage of the weapon in combat.
Creating science fiction comes with the unique challenge of dreaming up some kind of awesome, future technology and making it the norm for people native to the fictional society. Sometimes, creators get it right, like the video-call system in 2001: A Space Odyssey that later became reality with Skype and FaceTime. Others, like Back to the Future, left us waiting for pink hoverboards that were supposed to be available by 2015.
Thanks for nothing, Mattel.
CD Projekt Red faces this same conundrum in coming up with the dystopian future setting of their upcoming title, Cyberpunk 2077. Set 59 years in the future, you play a mercenary in a world almost completely overtaken by technology. People get cybernetic enhancements to make themselves look better and advertisements fill up every inch of the city. It’s up to you to carve out a little hole in this world.
Before we dive in, we have to say the game looks incredible. Check out this recently released footage.
From the looks of things, the developers appear to be very grounded in their approach to portraying technological advancements, keeping in accordance with Marshall McLuhan and his Tetrad of Media Effects theory.
The man himself, Marshall McLuhan.
Marshall McLuhan was fairly advanced for his time and was regarded as one of the fathers of media psychology. He’s was well regarded (posthumously, of course, as is the case with most scientists that’re ahead of their time) for laying the groundwork for achieving an understanding of how people perceive and take in all forms of media — meaning art, technology, and speech.
Today, we call it the internet. We use it to pretend to do work, watch videos of funny cats, and occasionally engage in fruitless arguments that will never change either party’s mind.
McLuhan’s Tetrad of Media Effects states that all technological advancements must serve four purposes to make a lasting impact on society. It must enhance something, make something obsolete, call back to something familiar, and have the potential to become something new when pushed to its limits.
His famous example was the FM radio, which meets all four criteria:
It amplifies news and music through sound,
It reduces the need for print media,
It brings spoken word back to the forefront in how people transfer stories, and,
Eventually, it could be enhanced with a visual component (aka television).
By following these rules, you can make educated guesses at where new technologies might emerge and which need they may grow to fill. In fact, he famously hypothesized that all forms of media would one day grow to an extreme, at which point, this new medium would be so fast and so large that everyone in the world could instantaneously communicate with one another. This single, new media form would encompass most other forms of communication. He called it “the global village” and was ostracized from the scientific community for his crackpot speculations.
But that would never… oh…
With McLuhan’s theory in mind, we can see how the developers at CD Projekt Red are applying it perfectly to the world of Cyberpunk. Not everything is crazy and outrageous, but rather plays on something that currently exists and amplifies it to a realistic degree.
Cybernetic enhancements are now a thing because they replace the previously squishy and less desirable parts of being human. Taxi cabs still exist because people still need to get from one place to another. And, of course, billboards cover everything when there are no rules about not plastered flashy ads across the sides of buildings.
First released in 1995 as Air Combat, the Ace Combat franchise has taken gamers to the skies at the speed of sound for over two and a half decades. As of July 2020, the franchise has sold over 16 million copies, making it one of Bandai Namco’s most successful franchises, among legends like Tekken and Pac-Man. The arcade-style flight simulator puts gamers in the cockpit of real-life aircraft, along with a few fictional ones, to engage in high-speed aerial combat.
Coming a long way from its humble and pixelated origins on the original Playstation, Ace Combat now provides players with the most immersive experience yet using the power of Playstation VR. Though the planes recreated in the virtual world are highly detailed thanks to licensing and support from the real-world manufacturers, the paint schemes and designs available to players to customize their aircraft in Ace Combat 7 are all fictional—until now.
To celebrate 25 years of Ace Combat, the liveries of two iconic squadrons have been added to the game. On August 20, 2020, a new package of aircraft skins and emblems was released containing different variations of the US aircraft national insignia and the liveries of Strike Fighter Squadron 103 (VFA-103), the “Jolly Rogers,” and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232 (VMFA-232), the “Red Devils.” Previously featured in Ace Combat: Assault Horizon and Ace Combat Infinity, the “Red Devils” livery is only available on the F/A-18F Super Hornet while the “Jolly Rogers” livery is available on both the F-14D Tomcat and the F/A-18F Super Hornet.
“‘Jolly Roger’ logo and aircraft paint pattern used with permission of the United States Department of Defense” (Bandai Namco)
Based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar under the command of Marine Air Group 11, the “Red Devils” are the oldest and most decorated fighter squadron in the Corps. The squadron can trace its lineage back to VF-3M, which was commissioned at Naval Air Station San Diego on September 1, 1925. The “Red Devils” went through seven redesignations and eight different aircraft until they were temporarily decommissioned on November 16, 1945.
“‘Red Devil'” logo and aircraft paint pattern used with permission of the United States Department of Defense.” (Bandai Namco)
The squadron was reactivated on June 3, 1945 with its current designation. VMFA-232 did not deploy to Korea but saw heavy combat in Vietnam. In September 1973, the “Red Devils” became the last Marine squadron to leave the Vietnam War. Today the squadron flies the F/A-18 Hornet in support of the Global War on Terror. Their livery is erroneously applied to the F/A-18F Super Hornet as it is the only Hornet variant in Ace Combat 7.
The “Jolly Rogers” have a more complex lineage. Currently, the skull and crossbones insignia flies with VFA-103. However, the squadron adopted the insignia from VF-84 who adopted it from VF-61. VF-61 was originally established as VF-17 on January 1, 1943 at NAS Norfolk. The squadron’s commander, Lt. Cdr. John T. “Tommy” Blackburn, wanted the insignia to have a piratical theme that matched to mirror the Corsair name of their F4U fighters; and thus, the skull and crossbones was born. Over the course of two combat tours, the squadron was credited with 313 aerial victories and produced 23 aces, making it the most successful US Navy squadron of WWII. The “Jolly Rogers” were redesignated twice after the war before they were disestablished on April 15, 1959.
In 1959, VF-84’s commander, who had previously flown with the VF-61, requested to change his squadron’s name and insignia to that of the “Jolly Rogers.” His request was approved on April 1, 1960 and the skull and crossbones was revived. The planes of VF-84 proudly flew the insignia until the squadron was disestablished on October 1, 1995. It was then that the insignia’s current bearers, VFA-103, adopted the “Jolly Rogers” name and insignia. Though the “Jolly Rogers” insignia and livery was never applied to the F-14D like it is in Ace Combat 7 (VFA-104 did not fly this variant), the squadron does currently fly the F/A-18F that bears the livery in the game.
Whether you’re an enthusiast or a past or current member of the “Red Devils” or “Jolly Rogers,” Ace Combat’s addition of their liveries is a fitting celebration for its 25th Anniversary. Did we mention that the aircraft skins are free? Simply install the latest game update and you’ll have them. Good hunting.
Troops go through seemingly endless amounts of training that can be expensive, boring, and even dangerous. In an effort to make training cheaper, safer, and more effective, the service branches have turned increasingly to video games and simulators.
Possibly the most immersive system in use today, the VIRTSIM system from Raytheon allows users to operate in an open area the size of a basketball court. Trainees wear a set of sensors and feedback gear that records their every action and feeds it into the simulator. Virtual reality goggles show them a simulated world that they move through as a team.
Similarly, the Army’s Dismounted Soldier Training System allows troops to train as a squad in virtual reality. The system allows for customizable missions and incorporates all of a trainee’s movements except for actually walking. Because of the high cost of treadmills, each soldier stands on a rubber pad and moves through the environment with a controller mounted on their weapon, meaning they can’t train the muscle memory of leaping to cover or learn as well to operate with muscle fatigue.
Still, the DSTS provides the chance for soldiers to respond to a mortar attack, react to a near ambush, or any number of dangerous situations that are impossible to train on in the real world.
One of the older simulators, the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000, has even more limitations. Troops are confined to a room and can’t move their character through the simulation at all. Instead of looking through goggles to see the virtual world, a projection of the simulated battle is displayed on one or more walls and trainees engage targets in it.
The EST 2000 does have weapons that closely simulate actual M4s, M9s, and other commons systems. The weapons keep track of how the soldier aims and fires, catching even small actions like trigger squeeze. This allows marksmanship trainers to collect detailed information about what a service member is doing right or wrong.
The military branches use simulators similar to the ESTS 2000 to train pilots and vehicle crew members. While not being able to walk limits training opportunities for ground troops, people in vehicles don’t have to worry about that. Warrior Hall at Fort Rucker allows new Army pilots to train on different helicopter airframes. The Navy and Air Force have similar programs for jet pilots.
While the simulators are great, the goal isn’t to replace the standard training but to augment. Troops can use the simulator to practice rifle fundamentals before heading to the range, experience hitting a building with their squad before their first visit to a shoot house.
And the military still has even more ambitious plans for simulations. The Future Holistic Training Environment Live Synthetic program would tie together different simulations and allow players to participate in massive exercises. Pilots training in New Mexico could fly support for infantrymen training in California while battle staff commanded from North Carolina.
While it might feel like 2020 has already lasted seven or eight decades, extended stay-at-home orders are going to make this year feel a whole lot longer and lonelier. Nothing like looking at an empty calendar for the next few weeks until… indefinitely. Womp. But here to brighten your social life is Jackbox Games. Everyone’s favorite TV party game just got an even better twist: you can play it together, remotely.
Jackbox Games has a multitude of interactive, hilarious games that will keep you guessing and laughing for hours. From drawing and guessing games like Drawful to Murder Trivia and everything in between, Jackbox is a fan favorite on Friday nights in our friend group when we’re together – so we’re ecstatic we can now play while we’re all apart.
If you feel confident about you and your fellow players’ internet connections, just hop on a videoconferencing service (like Zoom or Google Hangouts). Start a game on your laptop and use the screen sharing option so that players you’re on a call with can see the game. Everyone can play along on their own mobile devices by using a browser and going to Jackbox.tv. If you’re having difficulty with getting out of full screen mode in the game to get back to your video conferencing screen, go to the game’s settings in the main lobby and turn off “Full Screen Mode.”
If you’re a Steam fan, you can skip the videoconferencing step and use Steam Remote Play Together. This feature allows you to share your local co-op games online with friends. Using Remote Play Together, only one person needs to own a copy of a Jackbox Games title. Up to four players (or more with faster internet connections) can join. You can find instructions for how to get started here.
Discord screen sharing can also be a great option if you’re playing on a laptop. You and up to nine of your Discord friends can connect and have both the game and video enabled. You’ll want to see your friend’s face when they’re lying about being an alien in Push The Button. Learn more here.
Some consoles also have screen share or co-stream abilities as long as you’re playing with someone who also owns that platform. For example, if you’re friends with someone else on Xbox One, co-streaming lets you and up to three friends merge your screens into one single Mixer broadcast. Instead of streaming, many people have set up an additional webcam in front of their TV as an easier option.
The 2010 smash-hit video game Call of Duty: Black Ops featured many of the conspiracy theories surrounding the Cold War. While some of them have been proven false, others are impossible to debunk — but a select few are very much true. One such example is the true-to-life way in which the protagonist receives orders throughout the campaign: through a “numbers station.”
In the game, your character, Alex Mason, listens to a shortwave radio station transmitting from a boat off the coast of Cuba that intends to send a message to Soviet sleeper agents in the States. Unlike the more fantastical elements of the game, there is historical precedent for remote numbers stations being used by spy agencies of the time.
Before the era of radio encryption, anyone with a radio receiver could listen in on any conversation. Single-channel military radios operate much like the radio in your car, just at a much lower frequency — one that car radios can’t receive. To make sure a secret message wasn’t intercepted by a random person with a radio, agencies used cryptic codes. A well-known example of such secret speech is the American military’s use of Code Talkers.
The other, equally ingenious method was the use of numbers stations. At a given moment and on a known frequency, a one-way message was sent. That message could be, as the name implies, just a string of numbers, either simply spoken or hidden within a specific song or Morse code. The listener would then use a cipher to translate what those numbers meant.
An outed numbers station transmission, The Swedish Rhapsody, sounded like this.
Someone could, for instance, turn on their car radio at exactly 12:34 PM and tune to a station that’s normally just static and hear a person call off a string of numbers, which could then translate into something like, “continue the mission.”
In the case of the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops, this method was used for espionage purposes. The radio station from which these messages were broadcast roamed the Gulf of Mexico, avoiding detection.
The use of open radio frequencies meant that more than one spy could listen in at the same time. Although never officially confirmed, many spy agencies from around the world have alluded to using them in such a manner.
Numbers stations are, allegedly, still in use. The confirmed Cuban numbers station, Atención, was at the center of an espionage case in the late 90s. Cryptic messages are still broadcast in Cuba at random times to this day.
Let’s be honest with ourselves, if video games were to depict the average day for a grunt, they would be boring. Even if they showed field training, there are still a lot more tedious things going on than shooting guns and blowing things up. The reality is that in the modern era, military video games like Call of Duty or Battlefield lied to everyone about military life.
If you joined because you thought it would be fun based on a video game, you might feel robbed. You probably cleaned more floors than battlefields and you probably sprayed more window cleaner than bullets. Infantry life isn’t as exciting as you thought, is it?
There’s definitely a lot you do outside of combat that you hope will never make it into any video games because it does, it will be a terrible experience for everyone involved.
Digging the fighting holes will make you rage-quit.
(U.S Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. David Diggs)
Digging fighting holes
Easily at the top of the list. Can you imagine paying for a bad ass looking military shooter game just to end up spending half of it digging a hole to shoot from?
In real-life, it probably takes you ten hours because three hours in you discovered the world’s biggest rock and you spent the last seven hours using a tiny shovel to cut through it like it’s California in 1850 and you found some gold in that bad boy.
Press “F” to slightly bend your knees so you don’t pass out.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jerrod Moore)
If you think un-skippable tutorials are bad, just be glad you don’t have to stand still for two hours waiting for your company Gunnery Sergeant try and figure out how to say, “To all who shall see these presents, greetings,” as if it was written in Hebrew.
Spades Simulator 19?
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Jackson)
This is the life of a grunt: you spend most of your day sitting in your room waiting for someone to give you a task. Usually they end up telling you to clean something thirty minutes before you’re supposed to be cut loose for the day. And it will take you until Midnight.
Funny enough, video games are just one of many things to do while you stand-by so what would you do in a video game that had this?
Imagine this scenario as the loading screen between missions.
(U.S Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Patrick Osino)
To be fair, Far Cry 2 had a mechanic and you would have to clean your weapon periodically or it would jam on you. What we mean is going through a Call of Duty campaign and then the post-credit mission is to spend 14 hours at the armory cleaning everything because you just put the entirety of the Department of Defense’s ammunition store through it in a single go.
Before you can even go on a mission, you would have to do this for an entire week.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Stormy Mendez)
Would you pay for a video game that forced you to spend at least 25% of your play time at the base theater listening to your chain of command lecture on different subjects that they’re vaguely qualified to speak on? Maybe that could be a downloadable content release that comes out after everyone stops playing it.
Imagine if every update just erased your swim qual data.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Robert Brown)
Part of the real-life tutorial is being taught survival swimming in boot camp but the military thinks after two years you’ll forget so they make you do it again. It’s like getting through that one water level you always hated (you know what we mean) just to do it again after a few missions.
Usually, any mention of “computer-based training” leads to more groans from troops than any GI Party ever could. Not so for these military video games. These games are more like those marathon weekends playing “GoldenEye 64” during the junior high years. Bring out the military equivalent of Funyuns and Mountain Dew (Sunflower seeds and Rip-Its?) and settle in to become the best U.S. troop that ever roamed virtual Earth.
Developed by the U.S. Army and one of the most prolific developers of Super Nintendo (SNES) games, the Multipurpose Arcade Combat Simulator (MACS) used a light gun to rate how well a soldier shoots. MACS also aided in learning to zero a rifle and other basic aspects of marksmanship. The light gun isn’t the standard issue SNES weapon, it’s a replica of Jäger AP-74, which is itself styled after the M-16 rifle used by the U.S. military.
Virtual Reality Combat Training
The VIRTSIM System, created by Raytheon, is an immersive, open space, VR training ground. The basketball court-sized game pad keeps track of a soldier’s movements through the use of a rubber pad and a weapon-mounted controller. The limitations of the game and the environment allow for the troops to train on responses to incoming fire of different kinds, but they can’t jump for cover and they will never be as tired in the training simulator as they might be after days of dismounted patrols in the real world. The system’s benefit is that it is a way to train for scenarios that the Army cannot recreate and allows for troops to familiarize themselves with the weapons and equipment they’ll carry in a real-world situation.
Full Spectrum Warrior (Xbox)
In 2004, game producer THQ and The U.S. Army-funded Institute for Creative Technologies dropped “Full Spectrum Warrior.” Recognizing that millennials coming into the military since 2000 grew up playing video games, the Army’s Science and Tech community created this first attempt at leveraging video games for training purposes. There were two versions of “Full Spectrum Warrior,” the one released to the public, and the one used as a training tool. The Army’s version is unlocked via a static code (HA2P1PY9TUR5TLE) on the code input screen. The player issues orders and directions to virtual fire teams and squad members, over whom he does not directly control. Another version of the game, called “Full Spectrum Command,” would be introduced later for company-level commanders.
Tactical Iraqi (PC)
The “Tactical Iraqi Language and Culture Training System” brought scenario-based PC gameplay to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines before their Surge deployment to Iraq in 2007. The game was developed to teach Iraqi situational language and gestures as well as cultural nuances in a virtual world that could be applied to real-world deployments. It brought Marines face-to-face with Iraqis during simulated missions. The game reduced several months of cultural training to 80 hours of computer-based training.
America’s Army (PC, Xbox)
“America’s Army” is not just a game, it’s a series of games. The U.S. Army developed and published this first-person shooter to provide a virtual soldier experience that was “engaging, informative, and entertaining.” Since its initial inception on PC in 2002, it has grown to include iterations on Xbox, Xbox 360, arcade, and mobile apps. The platform has also extended to other government training platforms to further train troops. The latest iteration, “America’s Army: Real Heroes” featured specific, real-world soldiers who have distinguished themselves in combat. The series has won dozens of awards, including Best Action Game of E3 by GameSpy and Best First Person Shooter from Wargamer.
Virtual Battlespace 2
“Virtual Battlespace 2” (or VBS2) gives instructors the ability to create custom battlefield simulations that engage the players (read: soldiers) from multiple viewpoints. Like “Full Spectrum Warrior,” it also gives soldiers the ability to issue orders to squad members. As of 2012, the game was still being used for Basic Combat Training scenarios. It teaches land nav, combat scenarios, and platoon-level group strategies. The biggest advantage of using VBS2 is that new soldiers learn from their mistakes more easily and faster, with fewer consequences than say, getting lost in the woods in a land nav exercise.
Ah, Call of Duty. A video game that was a far more successful recruitment tool for the Army than the Army’s actual recruitment video game America’s Army.
It’s understandable that the game would plant a good seed in the heads of many teens who play the game. They get a consequence-free taste of the badassery from the safety of their couch. Later they’ll keep the military in the back of their mind and one day they’ll enlist.
If it fills the seats of recruitment offices — it’s fantastic. The only down side is that it kind of paints the military in an unrealistically awesome light. That’s not to say that life isn’t awesome in the military — just not that awesome.
You’ll think it’s a cool achievement when you finish but everyone else has it unlocked already.
(Photo by Scott Prater)
The tutorial is over nine weeks long
In the video game, you can just skip any training if you’ve already got an idea of how things work. You don’t get that kind of luxury in the real military. Even if you have a good idea how to pick up food with a fork or make a bed, you’ll learn you’ve been doing it wrong your entire life.
Then comes the cool training like rifle marksmanship. You’ll blink and then it’s back to learning that eating and showering should be done in 30 seconds.
You’re kinda on your own getting “Slight of Hand Pro.”
(DoD photo by Sgt. Tierney P. Nowland)
You can’t really modify your loadout
You can earn cool points in Call of Duty with the people you’re playing with by unlocking all the attachments and skins for your weapons. Hate to burst your bubble but it’s generally frowned upon to spray-paint your M4 bright pink and go on a patrol.
There is a silver lining to this one though. You don’t have to be a Colonel before you can get your hands on an M240-B.
But it is kinda real with other people running to go steal YOUR package. Still a bit sour about that one.
(U.S. Navy photo by Public Affairs Specialist Joel Diller)
Care packages don’t include attack dogs
Care packages are fun in Call of Duty! If you rack up a high enough score, you can get lucky and find some pretty useful stuff in them, like controllers to drone strikes or a radio to call in an attack helicopter.
Actual care packages usually just include things like socks, hotel soaps, and a chocolate bar that melted on its way to the deserts of Iraq.
You missed a spot.
(U.S Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Matt Hecht)
Prestiging isn’t as fun
Prestiging in Call of Duty is a way for players to start their career all over again. When they reach the rank of General of the Army, they can say “f*ck it” and go back to being a private for the fun of it so they can unlock everything all over again — this time with a way to let other players know how cool they are.
In the actual military, going back down to private usually involves a reduction in pay and a lot more menial labor.
That’s not to imply that we don’t talk smack over the radios. No one really cares as long as you use “over” and “out.”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Mealy)
The chain of command discourages screaming obsenities over comms
It’s kind of a given that, when given a headset, kids will scream curse words that would have gotten us all slapped by our parents if they ever heard us use them. It doesn’t affect their gameplay, which is all that matters to them, so they’ll keep smack-talking you.
Even just the simplest of improper radio etiquette gets you a stern talking to by the operations sergeant major. Any mentions of doing unspeakable things to someone’s mother will be a near-instant way to “prestige” in rank.
“Here take a profile. That’ll cure everything!” said every doc ever.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Anthony Zendejas IV)
Healing involves more than hiding for four seconds
Being shot in the face in a video game is really easy to recover from. You just hide behind a rock until your screen stops being red and you’re good to go. Get back in there.
Real life medics and corpsmen like to think they have this ability when they prescribe you a Motrin and a change of socks — but they don’t. That also includes taking a knee and drinking water.
In either world, do not lose your own dog tags.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jordan A. Talley)
Collecting enemy dogtags isn’t a thing
A fun game mode in Call of Duty is Kill Confirmed, where after players kill the enemy, they have to run over their corpse and collect their dog tags to get points for the kill.
If that was how operations were conducted in the real world, it would make being an artilleryman so much more difficult. And taking war trophies off dead bodies is actually frowned upon by the Geneva Convention.
Freakin’ campers, man.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Joshua C. Allmaras)
Stabbing people in the foot doesn’t instantly kill them
According to the game’s logic, it takes several bullets to the chest to drop somebody, shotguns only work if you’re within three feet of someone, and sniper rifles are great for clearing rooms with. If you manage to find the dude hiding in the corner with a sub-machine gun though, you can stab them to instantly kill them.
No. That is not how any of this works. The grenade launcher thing is pretty close though.
What kind of military doesn’t allow its troops to single-handedly use a nuclear warhead at their own discretion? Oh? Literally every military? Nevermind.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Dengrier Baez)
No one will let you drop a nuke just because you killed 25 people
The ultimate prize for any Call of Duty is to get a 25-kill streak going without dying. If you can manage this, you can get a tactical nuke that you can drop to instantly win the match.
In reality, killing 25 people just gives you a drinking problem and night terrors.
These games – in which players are positioned behind a gun – have turned a generation of kids into digital warriors who fight terrorists and battle alien invaders. Many play first-person shooters for pure, innocent enjoyment. Some like achieving objectives and being a part of a team. And, for others, it simply feels good to eliminate an enemy – especially someone who’s trying to harm them.
The games allow soldiers to take their combat roles home with them and blur their on-duty responsibilities with their off-duty, noncombat routines and lives.
But what effect have these video games had on U.S. soldiers? How accurately do they depict military life? And do they actually help recruit, train and retain troops?
The games in the Arma series strive to simulate combat. In this sequence from Arma 2, a helicopter insertion goes wrong as troops try to take a contested airfield.
From battle screen to battlefield
As part of a study, we interviewed 15 current and former members of the U.S. military who were between 24 and 35 years old to understand the role violent first-person shooter games played in their recruitment and training.
The majority of interviewees told us it was important to stay in the mindset of a soldier even when not on duty. To them, first-person shooters were the perfect vehicle for doing this.
Game preferences varied among the soldiers we interviewed, but popular titles included “Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2” and “ARMA 2,” which a current member of the Army said was “one of the most hardcore assault experiences in gaming.”
In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, players fight a campaign across the world and in space during a war between the U.S. and Russia.
Meanwhile, an Iraq War veteran described “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2” and “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” as “the ultimate first-person shooter experiences ever” and “intensive and highly realistic approaches to tactical combat. The choice of attacking with stealth or unleashing an all-out frontal assault full of mayhem is yours. It’s violent, it’s chaotic, it’s beautiful.”
But it’s tough to make the case that games accurately simulate what a soldier’s life is really like. First, military tours of duty are not solely made up of hard-charging, chaotic battles, like those in first-person shooters. The majority of soldiers won’t participate in any full-frontal combat operations.
Second – and, most importantly – in the digital world there are no legal and ethical considerations. When things go wrong, when innocent people are killed, there are no ramifications. If anything, the games warp these real-world consequences in the minds of players; in 2012, psychologists Brock Bastian, Jolanda Jetten and Helena R.M. Radke were able to use brain scans to show that playing violent video games had the potential to desensitize players to real-life violence and the suffering of others.
In a 2010 article for the Brookings Institution, political scientist Peter Singer quoted a Special Forces soldier who was involved in the production of “America’s Army 360,” a video game developed to recruit and train enlistees.
An American city burns in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
“You lose an avatar; just reboot the game,” the soldier said. “In real life, you lose your guy; you’ve lost your guy. And then you’ve got to bury him, and then you’ve got to call his wife.”
Indeed, journalist Evan Wright wrote in his book “Generation Kill” that solders were on “intimate terms with the culture of video games, reality TV shows and internet porn.”
Real-life combat, however, was something entirely different.
“What I saw was a lot of them discovered levels of innocence that they probably didn’t think they had,” Wright wrote. “When they actually shot people, especially innocent people, and were confronted with this, I saw guys break down. The violence in games hadn’t prepared them for this.”
Thus video games might suck soldiers in – offering a tantalizing taste of the glory and excitement of battle. But they do little to prepare them for the types of threats that actually exist on the battlefield.
“When I really think of the government seeing that as training, I laugh,” one of our interviewees told us. “But I also feel a bit uneasy.”
Militarizing legions of gamers
Regardless of their effectiveness as training tools, violent video games can certainly act as a valuable tool for connecting the military with potential recruits. In addition to influencing the decisions of gamers to pursue military service, they can also be used to promote the geopolitical goals of the military.
Journalist Hamza Shaban, in a 2013 article for The Atlantic, described just how deep the Army’s relationship had become with the commercial gaming industry, creating what he dubbed a “military-entertainment complex.” According to Shaban, the games that emerged from this relationship – an exciting, simplified, easy-to-play version of warfare – encouraged gamers to consider a career in the military.
Frontlines: Fuel of War attempts to simulate what World War 3 in the near future would look like.
(YouTube/Best War Games Channel)
Meanwhile, games such as “UrbanSim,” “Tactical Iraqi” and “Frontlines: Fuel of War” teach players and potential recruits about the discourse of modern-day warfare. Missions include battling Islamic militants, winning over potentially hostile populations and establishing pro-Western, pro-democratic societies. They engage with the fundamentals of insurgency and counterinsurgency, present the dangers of improvised explosive devices and highlight the military usefulness of weaponized drones.
However, to some of the soldiers and ex-soldiers we spoke to, the value of playing first-person shooters amounted to little more than propaganda.
“The idea of us training using these games is a bit of a [disaster],” one said. “What the U.S. seeks to achieve through the use of these games is not entirely within their control. It might be a cheap way of getting us involved … but it’s hardly ‘training.'”
Another called first-person shooters “more like brainwashing than anything.”
“But you have to be pretty stupid to buy into all this,” he added.
One of the struggles that many returning, wounded veterans face is trying to find a new normal after a horrific incident. What was once a simple pastime, like playing a quick round of your favorite video game to relieve stress, is taken away from someone who has lost the ability to hold and operate a controller as they once did.
This is what Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller is designed to alleviate. And any little thing that can help give our wounded brothers and sisters a better chance at living a comfortable, normal life should definitely be counted as a win for the veteran community as a whole.
AbleGamers has founded many Accessibility Arcades to give gamers with disabilities a space with a wide variety of modified controllers.
(USDA photo by Bob Nichols)
The disabled gaming community has had to find ways to compensate for many years, going to either extremely costly or very frustrating lengths to do so. If a gamer with disabilities isn’t able to successfully adjust the way they play to fit their condition, they have to abandon the game, wasting cash and taking a hit to morale as they have to say goodbye to their favorite titles.
And then came the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, which requires tech companies to outfit all forms of communication, including laptops, smartphones, and video game consoles, with accommodations in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Since the CCVAA’s passing, nearly all tech giants have taken steps in the right direction, introducing many text-to-speech features for the visually impaired and other accessibility options, like color-blind support settings in most major game titles. Then, Microsoft moved leaps and bounds ahead of the wave when they announced a partnership with AbleGamers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving accessibility in the video game space.
The engineers at Microsoft began working on a versatile prototype controller that can interface with all types of external input devices, allowing for an adaptive remapping of inputs. There are 19 ports on the back of the controller that can be connected to joysticks, standard controllers, buttons, switches, or whatever other type of device is most accessible to the gamer. If need be, any Xbox game can be played with one hand and a foot, one hand and a shoulder, one shoulder and a foot — whatever allows the gamer to play most comfortably.
The controller has been released to the public — and at a reasonable price. Our friends at Operation Supply Drop were given many adaptive controllers to be deployed to military hospitals around the world. The chief medical officer of OSD, Maj. Erik Johnson, has long been a supporter of using video games as a therapeutic tool for wounded troops.
With these controllers, many more wounded veterans will be able to bring gaming back into their lives.
Most experiments in which biologists — or, more accurately, epidemiologists — study how a disease spreads are done theoretically, involving only a pen and paper. They do their best to simulate the spread of various contagions and study outbreaks of the past, but nobody would dare spread a disease simply to study it.
In 2005, however, they were given the perfect test conditions and subjects: World of Warcraft players.
World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game made by Blizzard Entertainment set in a fantasy realm called Azeroth. In September of 2005, a new “raid” encounter — an experience that required 20 players — opened up, called Zul’Gurub. This was, basically, an ancient city loosely based on Mayan culture that belonged to a savage tribe of Trolls.
When players finally fought the final boss, the Serpent God Hakkar, they would contract a temporary “debuff” (or weakness) called “Corrupted Blood” that would slowly drain their health before spreading to another player.
Once a player was infected, they’d have to wait out the sickness or die in the process. It wasn’t much more than a nuisance to high-level players, as they could simply heal themselves and continue fighting, hoping to pry an epic sword from the Serpent Lord’s cold corpse. But the in-game plague didn’t just affect players.
In the game, you play one of several different fantasy roles, including paladins, druids, rogues, and (most relevant to this scenario) hunters. Hunters specialized in taming beasts that would then fight in their name. If a hunter’s pet contracted Corrupted Blood, the player could “dismiss” their pet, making it effectively disappear. The next time that pet was called to help, however, it would still have the disease — and it would still spread to nearby characters.
Hunters of the world would (sometimes) inadvertently bring their infected pets back to large population hubs after completing the raid. There, they’d call forth their beast without realizing it was still infected. Then, the Corrupted Blood was transmitted to other players outside of the raid. This time, the infected players weren’t powerful heroes attempting to kill a god, but rather low-level noobies that would quickly die once affected by the plague, causing it to infect others.
This spread just like a real plague. Players, in search of safety, would evacuate large cities, bringing Corrupted Blood to outlying hamlets, just as with real plagues. Some players would knowingly infect themselves just to harass other players, akin to bio-terrorism.
It was fixed within a week and the game developers apologized for the bug (even though they intentionally recreated it a few years afterwards). But this was the perfect scenario that every epidemiologist dreams of recreating without risking their medical license.
Years after the virtual incident, many researchers published documents using information gathered from the digital plague. They tracked how animals that humans keep as pets might be the most prone to infecting others. They monitored how the disease spread through major population centers and how it traveled along pathways towards the outer reaches of the game. It even simulated surprisingly lifelike actions of bio-terrorists and how they can be dealt with.
(Photo by Jerry Stillwagon)
All in all, it was a mild annoyance to the players but it gave the Center for Disease Control and many researchers a realistic and ethically-sound testing environment.