If ever there was a war that lacked any hint of glamor it was World War I. Trench warfare was a meat grinder. Wikipedia.org tells the tale under the heading Death in the Trenches.

Medical services were primitive and antibiotics had not yet been discovered. Relatively minor injuries could prove fatal through onset of infection and gangrene. The Germans recorded that 15% of leg wounds and 25% of arm wounds resulted in death, mainly through infection. The Americans recorded 44% of casualties who developed gangrene died. Fifty percent of those wounded in the head died and 99% of those wounded in the abdomen died. Seventy five percent of wounds came from shell fire. A wound resulting from a shell fragment was usually more traumatic than a gunshot wound .  . .

Although World War I was the first war in which disease caused fewer deaths than combat, sanitary conditions in the trenches were quite poor, and common infections included dysentery, typhus, and cholera. Many soldiers suffered from parasites and related infections. Poor hygiene also led to fungal conditions, such as trench mouth and trench foot. Another common killer was exposure, since the temperature within a trench in the winter could easily fall below freezing. Burial of the dead was usually a luxury that neither side could easily afford. The bodies would lie in no man’s land until the front line moved, by which time the bodies were often unidentifiable.

In other words, death was hardly quick and seldom painless. Which it is in the WWI sim above.

By making horrific war into a relatively anodyne game — not to mention the mainstream media’s reluctance to show modern war’s gruesome face — are we sanitizing and glamorizing military conflict? And by doing so, encouraging teens and young adults to support American military adventurism? Or am I just a Get Off My Lawn OFWG spoilsport?

60 Responses to Question of the Day: Do Video Games Glamorize War?

  1. War games will ALWAYS glorify death and destruction. The real thing will make you puke and wretch all day, every day.

  2. Bah… it’s a game. It’s supposed to be fun. Did playing “cowboys and indians” “glamorize” the old west? It’s a meaningless discussion. People have been worried about “glamorizing” war since the Iliad.

    Hell, you could make the same argument about the “epic of Gilgamesh”. It’s a part of the human condition to want to be closer to our heroes. In ancient Babylon, it was a 1/3 human demigod. (Don’t ask, it’s a weird case) Today, it’s the various special operations teams. 10,000 years is hardly enough to change the human condition.

    • +1 Not to mention, they are currently getting kids into collecting/shooting year after year. I stopped counting how many young (<25) people I've met at various ranges who bought or expressed interest in buying an AR-15 because of video games. They don't have to be staunch 2A supporters right out of the gate, so long as the seeds are planted by that first range trip/gun purchase, especially for those living in the shitty states.

      • And how many of those saw guns as cool in a Hollywood action flick?

        The only way the Left will win the culture war on guns is for them to treat guns he exact same way as cigarettes were treated.

        They have to ban all gun ads in media, and not glamorize guns by not portraying them in a good light in movies.

        And that just ain’t gonna be happening. Action flicks are some of the biggest hits Hollywood makes.

        We piss and moan about how Leftist Hollywood is. We should be cheering them. The movies they make are directly responsible for a big part of winning the ‘hearts and minds’ of Americans…

  3. Video games glamorize war no more than tv shows, movies, novels, and war stories. Few want to talk about the horrors and atrocities seen and committed so the past is ignored, forgotten, white washed.

  4. War is an unfortunate aspect of politics and the human condition. It has been with us since time immemorial and will be with us for the foreseeable future.

    Games don’t glamorize it any more than movies. Movies don’t glamorize it unless you’re stupid or insane.

    No normal person has ever seen a movie like Saving Private Ryan, To Hell and Back, The Sands of Iwo Jima or even Blackhawk Down, said “Holy shit, that looks awesome! I want to do that!” and scurried off to find a recruiter.

    Therefore I doubt anyone would do the same because they played Battlefield 4 or any other game.

    • “No normal person has ever seen a movie like Saving Private Ryan, To Hell and Back, The Sands of Iwo Jima or even Blackhawk Down, said “Holy shit, that looks awesome! I want to do that!” and scurried off to find a recruiter.”

      That’s *exactly* what happened in World War 2, and to a lesser extent to this day. (In Vietnam, John Wayne – The Green Berets.)

      Hollywood war movies were (and still are) direct DOD recruitment propaganda. How else did Hollywood get access to tens of millions of dollar’s worth of US Navy Tomcats in ‘Top Gun’? That Navy SEAL movie a year or so back that used active-duty SEALS on-camera?

      • The Navy SEAL movie (Act of Valor) was actually supposed to have been filmed and produced by the Navy for recruitment, but someone in Hollywood asked to make a movie about it. It’s one of my favorite movies.

      • I’m aware of the intent behind some of those movies, hence my mentioning of an Audie Murphy flick.

        That said I don’t think they’re particularly effective. The War Department paraded GySgt. Basilone around, surrounded by starlets and other celebs for a reason: to sell war bonds. They didn’t really need people to rush to enlist, though they wouldn’t usually turn you away if you did, because they had a draft and most of the people who were gung-ho to enlist already had after Pearl Harbor or did so as soon as they were old enough (or old enough to lie about their age convincingly) out of a sense of duty. The same thing happened with my generation after 9/11.

        Further, if you look at military advertising, which is 100% designed to get people to join, it’s rarely accurate on this topic (though a few ads the Corps has run recently might qualify). It’s generally either offering a challenge (Army), offering to let you use seriously cool equipment (Navy and Air Force) or it’s a guy climbing a mountain to slay a dragon and then transforming into a Marine in dress blues.

        I dunno, maybe that kind of thing doesn’t work on me but really, other than a few people who are easily swayed I don’t really think movies move the needle much. I think some people are predisposed to the mentality that they join a branch of the service but for those who are not seeing a movie doesn’t make them go from uninterested to sitting in a recruiting office. How you’re raised has more to do with it IMHO than any movie.

        But that’s just my opinion. Maybe, in my youth, Rambo ruined war movies as a recruitment tool for me.

    • Eh. I get the point you’re trying to make but the commercials for saving private Ryan, black hawk down, etc don’t feature Led Zeppelin blasting in the background with the characters quipping one liners at each other.

      Movies are better at displaying the graphic and awful nature of war. Games, even most M rated ones, you shoot the guy maybe a little blood comes out and it’s over.

      I think some games do a good job of trying to portray the horror of it, such as CALL OF DUTY world at war.

      All that being said, video games are an entertainment medium. They can portray it however they want. It’s up to the user to separate reality from fantasy.

      • Call of Duty used to do a decent job of portraying war (all the future games are stupid), such as the nuke in modern warfare 1, No Russians in MW2, and crawling around while watching your comrades get shot and hope ur not seen in World at War. They even did a decent job with covering psychological effects of war in Black ops 1.

    • “No normal person has ever seen a movie like Saving Private Ryan, To Hell and Back, The Sands of Iwo Jima or even Blackhawk Down, said “Holy shit, that looks awesome! I want to do that!” and scurried off to find a recruiter.”

      I watched a LOT of war movies and shows growing up, but I had a family with WW2, Korea, & Vietnam veterans; I knew early on that war was hell beyond comprehension, that it was a whole lotta suck, and there was a lot they wouldn’t talk about (which sometimes seemed like everything). But still, I wanted to be in the shit.
      I was about 16 when Saving Private Ryan first came out and I went to see it in the theater, the joint was filled with vets. After the D-Day part (which blew my mind), I looked around; some guys were having a rough time. A few walked out partway through the invasion scene or the village fight (when Vin gets dropped). After the movie was over and a bunch of vets were hanging out in the lobby; I stuck around and listened, trying to glean knowledge from their experiences. That, and the movie, added a layer of understanding about war that was both terrifying and exciting. And still, I wanted to be in the shit.
      Then 9/11 happened, and I was at the Army recruiter pretty much the next day. I knew what I had to do, so I headed off to the shit. While there, I learned that war really is equal parts suck, terrror, boredom…. and fun.
      I knew all those war movies glossed over the real ugliness, they made it look like being a soldier in action was an absolute blast. And I ain’t gonna lie, the first time I had to warm up the M2 during a convoy (after an RPG skipped off our 998’s hood), I popped a little wood; that part really was like the movies or a video game… except they can’t capture the thump & *smell* of the .50….. or the stench & stickiness of pulling a mostly dead TCN driver out of his truck, who got hit by a particularly nasty suspended IED. Or the fun of going in to the TMC with a broken finger, and a screaming trooper gets brought in with a bad leg wound and put on the rack right next to mine; it seriously disturbed my calm and I felt stupid for sitting there with a busted hand, so I got up and left, taping my broke finger to it’s neighbor at the motorpool.
      Maybe I’m not normal, and movies played a part in my doing what I did, but I had a pretty good idea of what to expect going in. Still…. watching parachute flares drift down into the date groves, throwing insanely moving shadows; while lasers, tracers, and 40mm, danced, zipped, and flashed among the trees; it was all some serious Platoon & Apocalypse Now stuff.

    • You beat me to it, the flu pandemic killed more people than the war by itself. Also ww1 started off very glamorized with whole villages enlisting to fight for God and country. It wasn’t until those units that contained all the men from a certain village started getting wiped that the negative stuff started coming out. WW1 was revolutionary in many ways; tactics, equipment, and organization. The true revolution though was in western thoughts on governance, WW2 may have killed God but WW 1 killed the king.

      • The history of Europe, especially in the 19th century, and double especially in the Balkans, is that of basically perpetual war. It’s hard to name a year in the 19th century when there was not some substantial named conflict or war underway.

        Now, perhaps each generation thinks it will all be different this time. Perhaps. That’s a matter of hubris, though, not ignorance of war’s realities. In the 1910s, young men and their leadership should have been under no illusions that slamming 20th century technology into each other, even just at national levels, let alone on a continental or global scale, would yield unprecedented horror.

        • Wrong. The 19th Century as defines as by social and political structure that lasted from the fall of Napoleon to the start of WWI was the most peaceful century n European history since the fall of Rome. The United States spent more time at war than any country in Europe and that doesn’t count the Indian Wars. Do you know how much time those Militaristic Prussian spent at War during the same time? About 6 months.

      • “You beat me to it, the flu pandemic killed more people than the war by itself.”

        And the world is *long* overdue another major pandemic.

        All the more to be worried since antibiotic resistance is getting worse.

        The next one will kill in the hundreds of millions…

        • Or super viruses, it’s funny the “highest life forms” vs the lowest.

  5. No – it’s just a game. People play it for fun. If it wasn’t fun people wouldn’t play it. I would say the vast majority of people know reality isn’t a game and that game isn’t true reality, and that it wouldn’t be fun to play, if it were real.

  6. Funny but I just watched a 3part PBS American Experience opus. They glamorized the he!! out of the flyboys in their rickety aeroplanes. Possibly the most worthless and meaningless war in human history. Possibly…it’s just a game RF. Nothing more.

  7. Desensitizes people so that they become immune to violence. Violence is glorified to the extent that it’s the new ‘normal’. Video games have contributed to the horrific crimes committed by gang bangers, IMO.

    • Yeah, video games. ‘Cause it couldn’t possibly be their adherence to degenerate street thug culture, worship of victimhood, and hatred of the rule of law that causes them to act so heinously.

    • Surprised to see such deep thoughts on video games from the resident “I only buy cheap shit made here” expert. Don’t you have a High Point or rusty Ruger .22 LR to clean?

  8. The military, govt, politicians, media, industry, business, artists, writers, Hollywood, and anyone that profits from war glamorizes it.

  9. They’ve been blaming all of society’s ills on various forms of media for over a century. Whether it’s video games, radio, television, Internet, it doesn’t matter. Everyone’s seeking a scapegoat for their poor parenting, or else just looking to stake a claim to living “nowadays” when it’s all different and worse from when they were growing up….

    Sure, video games glamorize war, but to no practical effect. If they did, then why aren’t young adults flooding the recruitment offices? Because they know the difference between fantasy and reality and they don’t want to get their heads blown off.

    Even if video games did fill youngsters with patriotism and a sense of imperviousness, their video game habit would actually insulate them from war’s horrors. Upwards of 3/4 of would-be recruits are not physically fit enough even to begin boot camp. Pudgy little keyboard commandos aren’t getting anywhere near Fort Benning, let alone Iraqistan.

  10. Isn’t the point that they glamorize war? I have never been in combat, so I will not venture to guess what it is *really* like. However for most of us, whether it’s going to school, working a job or just living our lives, things can get boring after a while. For 99.9% of us, video games offer escapism that is more exciting and fun than our typical day to day drudgery. If you are someone who actually plays these video games and doesn’t understand the difference between that game and reality, you are a fvckin’ retard. Look at the sheer volume of units sold between the COD and Battlefield franchises- has that led to a surge in recruitment for the military? They’re a way to connect with friends, entertain yourself or just veg out. Did Farmville glamorize farming? Did Sim City glamorize natural disaster?

        • So awesome that when people see you their mouth keeps moving after they’re done talking. Yeah, that would be cool.

          I guess thermonuclear death breath is an attention grabber.

  11. Ultimately depends on which games you play… The Witcher 3 paints a very dark, realistic war setting for the day its set in and there is no glory to it.

  12. I think first person shooter games trivialize war, which is far worse. Old fashion war games that focused on the tactial, operational and strategic art gave the players insights into the conduct of war in a way modern video games do not.

    • Yes, especially the older turn-based strategy games like Civilization. IMHO, no game was cooler than Lords of the Realm II. You had to manage literally everything that happened in your shires, while forging alliances and then personally taking command of your armies in the field.

    • LOL

      I was just reading some history and tripped over a hilarious tidbit: at least one Nazi general wanted to bring forward chemical weapons to repel the Normandy invasion, but was told that the weapons leaked gases and the only way to transport them right then was with horse-drawn wagons — and they didn’t have gas masks for the horses!

  13. I think a redo of “Wolfenstein” is way overdue, Those damn Nazis were everywhere. Oh, the old days, lol

    • Wolfenstein 3-D has been redone three times already, and even it wasn’t the first Wolfenstein game.

      Honestly, the only work I’m familiar with that didn’t glamorize war at all, not even accidentally, was With the Old Breed by E.B. Sledge. In case anyone here hasn’t already read it, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

      • A sampling of other works that don’t glamorize war/combat (and which I recommend) all are books:

        Non-Fiction:

        The Killing Zone Frederick Downs
        After Tet Ronald Spector
        A Rumor of War Phil Caputo
        Jarhead Anthony Swafford
        Helmet for my Pillow Robert Leckie

        Philosophy:

        The Art of War Sun Tzu
        The Life-Giving Sword Yagyū Munenori
        On War Carl von Clausewitz

        Fiction:
        The Killer Angles Micheal Shaara
        The Red Badge of Courage (spoiler, it’s GSW) Stephen Crane
        A number of books by Hemmingway

        Historical:
        Inferno Max Hastings
        Vietnam and the United States Gary Hess
        American Strategy in Vietnam Harry Summers Jr.
        Empire Niall Furguson

  14. Kind of off topic, but was anyone else disappointed with Battlefield I? And I don’t mean just with the weapons, I’m talking overall game.

    • Initially I was a bit disappointed compared to Battlefield 4 which has laser sights, red dots but once I got used to iron sights I got past being dropped from 100s of yards away by guys with bolt actions and into the intense and immersive close quarters trench fighting amidst gas, smoke and artillery I found it quite the time sink.
      The graphics and design were immensely impressive from the very start.

  15. I don’t know if they glamorize war, but I have been noticing that they definitely influence movies, where combat far more resembles a first-person-shooter game where the hero has superhuman speed and accuracy than any thing real. Once I realized they weren’t after realism the shows became much more fun.

  16. If young dudes can’t distinguish between a video game and the real thing, then they deserve the real thing.

  17. Killing is war is fun.. until you see the other man lying in a pool of his own blood. Then you think twice before you pull the trigger again. Then you realize that you cant think twice (hesitate) but need to rely on your instinct and training. You kill because you must, not because it is fun.

    “War” video games offer many of the emotions (usually abounding happiness due to success) of combat without the intense fear that usually accompanies it. Every time I left the gates of the FOB or got in another stupid fight at school, i felt intense fear. To remove fear from the equation of a fight is stupid and unwise. Video games condition young men to feel like they are fighting but devoid of fear. Then when that first fight happens and the fear takes over, many of those young men become paralyzed. They do not know how to react or think clearly and it sometimes costs the lives of those around them.

    The real world is a scary place if you do not know how to handle yourself. Video games are an escape from reality for those who cannot handle reality or do not want to handle reality. Should we outlaw or ban “violent” video games? No. American has this wonderful thing called freedom. You can choose how stupid or smart you want to be. But when I am in a fight, I do not want a man next to me who has spent the last four years of his life trying to attain the rank of general on every COD game. Ive seen where his mind goes.

    • Or they could just, y’know, be a fun way to kill an empty afternoon when nothing interesting is playing at the theater, you’ve caught up on all the good books, and you don’t owe anybody else an explanation for how you use your spare time.

      That said, the argument that video games desensitize players to violence and/or condition soldiers to become acclimated to killing is laughable. The most famous and “authoritative” proponent of the theory, Lt. Col. David Grossman, cites numerous studies to back up the claim, but what he doesn’t mention is that the majority of the studies he relies on cite Grossman himself as a primary source. He also claimed that the U.S. Military used DOOM to teach recruits how to kill, as opposed to what they actually did; use a gamelike software to teach hand-eye coordination and encourage teamwork.

      And just anecdotally, I’m not ashamed to admit that beating Duke Nukem 3D on the hardest difficulty has still left me woefully unprepared to prevent any alien invasions from conquering Earth and stealing our babes.

      • It is ironic how those who have experienced the dark side of video games are the ones who are ignored or laughed at. Grossman does cite himself. However his experience is very similar to mine. I must agree with him.

        I had some fun times playing video games while deployed. During the slow times, they were a great way to pass the time. I owe Bungie thanks for giving me a brief break from reality when i needed it most. It was the bloody games that always bothered me a little bit. I played most of the COD’s and a lot of other war like games. By watching my buddies play, I saw how FPS were affecting young men. It was not good but it was loads of fun and in a depressing time, fun trumps not good. I never realized what i was missing until One day i quit playing and decided to focus on reality. I still read the stories on wiki(fill in the blank) when a new game comes out but i have significantly more fun playing with my real boomsticks at the range.

        Halo 1-3 extensively prepared me for the coming alien invasion…

        • Grossman citing himself means that his evidence is anecdotal, and he crouches it in “studies” that he helped conduct to give the illusion that it’s empirical evidence. That he blatantly lied about the DOOM thing really doesn’t help his credibility, either. And you know what? So long as his puffed-up data isn’t used to justify any legislation, he can believe whatever he wants

  18. “Before” there was electricity, we played a game called Dungeon and Dragons. Back then myself and my friends decapitated the enemy, hacked people to death and tortured people to to get information. Any player who wanted to rape a game character we usually killed on the spot. After all we as 14 to 16 year old kids had standards.

    The atheists who are now anti-war games are just like the Christians who were against D and D in the 1970s and 80s.
    I played with lots of Mormon and other christian children. And our parents were grateful we played games on Friday night instead of getting in trouble with the police.

  19. I think the glamour comes from lack of consequences.

    I’m having a hard time writing this, but I will try to power through it. I was deployed to OIF and OEF 4 times. I was an infantryman in a heavy weapons company and I did not come back the same.

    I came back a raging A**hole. I lost my marriage. I was a jerk in my civilian job. On more than one occasion, I work up shaking my wife and yelling at her that “We needed to get accountability.” I was short with my kids – once even screaming at my son during a Mets game because he was taking too long trying to get signatures on his ball.

    The games don’t show the consequences. They don’t show the husband coming to your COP carrying their bleeding wife that was shot by one of your guys, or maybe the hajis, as if it mattered who shot her. They don’t show the guy you disassembled with a shotgun and the stream of grey intestines that spilled out of his stomach into the street. They don’t show you coming home and being terrified when you are stuck in traffic, or in a crowd of people, or when you swear the person you passed on the street was one of your men who died in Iraq.

    I’m better now through a combination of art therapy, medication and just chill time. But war games? No thank you. There’s too much violence in the world to create more of it by calling it “Entertainment.” Make no mistake about it, I’m still a gun owner, and I still enjoy shooting, but if I never raise a rifle, simulated or otherwise, in anger again, I’ll be a happy man.

    • Thank you for your service and sacrifice.

      Contrary to media reports, not everyone who serves in combat comes back damaged goods. Feinstein only wishes it were so in order to justify disarming veterans.

      My war was Vietnam. I didn’t come back addicted. I didn’t come back to commit crimes. Yes, I picked out spots in a restaurant with my back to the wall and where I could see the entry and windows, and that didn’t last long. I went on to very successful careers in the military and law enforcement.

      I have no idea what it is that causes one person to endure problems and another to readjust to life back home. Is it a desire to get back to what was great in ones life? I just don’t know. I do know that the only member of my team to whig out did so in country after receiving R&R with his spouse and discovering he had received a venereal disease from her.

      Do I think video games glorify war? No. No more than television. No more than playing cowboys and Indians, soldier, cops and robbers, did. It was just a game we played, and grew out of when we got interested in cars and girls. No more than hunting and fishing turned us into homicidal maniacs. Those games did teach us things which would serve us later in life. We developed “situational awareness”, fine tuned peripheral vision and hearing, and other skills. These were put to use on the ball fields, being able to watch the pitch of the ball as we also watched the next base. We were better able to detect the defensive player coming in from the side as we sprinted for the goal line. Our muscles and reflexes developed because of those childhood games because we were not sitting for hours in front of a screen eating snack foods and guzzling sugar filled sodas as the pounds packed on. Of course, those are the positives which video games do not impart.

      From the other side, the armed forces, law enforcement, and corporations are using video games for training purposes. It works and it is cost effective.

      If anything, video games are unhealthy pastimes for most young people due to a lack of exercise. There is also a possibility that they desensitize young people to situations, and give them the mental conditioning which makes them confrontational with authority figures. This, I believe is more from the design of the games than from a young person’s development. The real blame should fall on a lack of parental input.

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