Total control in games does not work in reality.
Earlier today I was watching a video done by a channel that specializes in military history and I stumbled upon one video that made an interesting point in regards to games and warfare, namely total control. Now I myself do play Real Time Strategy titles (RTS) and have a misconception that total control works more efficiently than – say – a democratic institution where responsibilities are delegated and where independent thought is promoted.
In the video they talk about how video games give players total control, and thus victory or defeat is dependent upon the player’s ability to control all aspects of the field and units. Games like Starcraft 2 the soldiers in the game will follow your orders blindly and disregard personal safety; contrast that to reality where an order is given to a unit to take a village, and from there one of two things can happen: (1) either it is like Napoleonic warfare in that the army moves however many steps the commander deems is needed, and fires when the commander orders it, or (2) the NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) or the officer in charge will lead the unit in via the best possible route and tackle the problem with the outcome of achieving the objective while minimizing casualties.
Casualties; in games they seldom portray wounded or missing-in-action soldiers. Units undergoing production (training) are translated into exact seconds as to when that unit will be ready for action in a game. Now in reality training time can vary, and usually a good basically-trained soldier without taking on trade (job)-specific training is about 10 to 13 weeks if they pass all the requirements (no injuries, pass fitness tests, weapons handling, and so on). That sort of data when given over to a commander in reality would mean that he/she has to work with whatever forces are available (already trained) at that moment – relying on units in training is not feasible.
Now the general statement can be made: “why not just draft (round up people and arm them for war – no training)?” Imagine not knowing how to clean, maintain, or even use a rifle; the only knowledge you have is from a 30 second video or briefing. Now imagine holding onto that rifle with ammunition; you are not used to the weight, you haven’t exercised in months (or even years), and you have not eaten any food yet and are cold and wet. Sounds like fun? Okay, then throw in a well-trained enemy who knows how to flank, who can work a knife expertly as to kill you without breaking too many ribs, and is coming over supported by armoured vehicles while you only have some 25 men/women with rifles – are you going to hold the line? There is no dramatic music to rouse you, nor is there an excellent speech about death or glory in this circumstance – there is only the natural human instinct of fight or flight.
This is the reality of warfare when compared to gaming; people differ from unit to unit, and a lot of aspects of warfare are left out of the picture. Indeed games like Starcraft, Warhammer 40,000 Dawn of War, and so on give a false impression that total control by a single leader works perfectly when in reality a lot of dictatorships are characterized by corruption, brutal use of force, and suppression of ideas that can benefit people if put into action but are rejected because the leader only wants their ideas to be made into reality. This is probably the reason why a lot of people out there might view (MIGHT – not assuming that they will, just they “might”) dictatorships are more efficient than democracies, when in reality the thought process and decision-making that goes into governing and planning takes time – one just happens to suppress different viewpoints on how to tackle a problem, while the other gives room for people to think creatively and promotes cooperation rather than submission and obedience.
Ultimately the game is meant to be fun, and in order to achieve this objective total control is given over to the player. Should a unit lose contact with the player, or refuse to carry out an order the player will get frustrated with the game and simply stop playing it – they want total control and predictability in a game, rather than what would happen in reality in that units can lose contact, get overrun without the commander noticing, desert, retreat without permission, or simply surrender to the enemy. Then of course there are factors like feeding the troops, giving them time off and so on – would you like it if you were drafted into the army, not fed and ordered into battle with summer clothes in the middle of December? No you wouldn’t, and you would probably – at that point – view the country to which you are part of as an incompetent, overbearing beast that needs to change.
Total control in reality will eventually lead to change; how violent and bloody it gets will be dependent upon the leader and their willingness to cooperate with others. When in these circumstances the reality will feel a lot more painful than a video game where you could just type: “GG” and quit (or ragequit – still quitting just in a fit of rage). Things will slump downhill in those situations, and it will take a very long time to return to normal, and to regain prosperity.
Now folks if you would like to view the video that inspired this piece, I will link it below; don’t forget to check out the Patreon page, and we’ll see you next time.
What computer games get “wrong” about war: