At some point back this past summer, I made mention of maybe doing an on-again-off-again video game series, The Lazy Gamer. And in typical fashion, I'm going to start it now. 5 or 6 months after saying it.
How does The Lazy Gamer work? Well, I enjoy playing video games when I get the chance, but I also don't have a lot of time to get around to them. So I just play them when I can. It could be a couple of weeks after a game release, but it could also be a couple of years after a game release. So, I'm essentially just writing about whatever I feel like playing. I also won't hurry up and finish a game just to write a piece about it, I'll just go about it at my own leisure and eventually do a write up. Considering I only finish (maybe) 5 or so games a year, thats probably the amount I'll be posting, Haha!
For the first installment of The Lazy Gamer, I'm going to talk about a semi-recent release. Battlefield 1!
Battlefield 1 is the recent release from EA Games and Dice Studios. Just like your typical war-based games, it is a first person shooter. But UNLIKE your typical war-based game, it is set in World War One. World War II FPS games are practically a dime a dozen, for a studio to take a chance on the subject of World War One was a fairly big risk. But it seems to have worked out for them because this is a really great game despite some of its very minor set backs.
To be fair, I'm playing this game not as a hardcore gamer, but as someone who studies history. So, I'm playing this game through a different set of eyes. Also, I absolutely HATE FPS game, but with my interest in World War One, I decided to break tradition and go for it.
The game opens with a character waking up for a dream. The time frame has to be within the 1930s or 1940s given that Vera Lynn's "We'll Meet Again" is playing in the background. The character is seemingly having a flashback from his time spent in the Great War as the opening sequence sends you back in time smack dab in the middle of a battle. The character from the beginning is gone with only, what I can assume is, his narration of other events/the future campaigns. At the conclusion of the opening level, you are taken to the campaign screen and can see five additional narrative campaigns. I should also note that this screen will show you that the title of the opening sequence level is called Storm of Steel. There is also a book of the same title by Ernst Junger about his "firsthand account" of his time as a German soldier in World War One (I put quotations around firsthand account because there is belief his stories were embellished a bit). It's a good read if you're interested in learning more about the subject. But, I digress...
I mentioned previously that there are five mini-campaign stories instead of one longer narrative. This works to the game's advantage because of the escalation of "all out war". This was war on a global scale and more than just two or three opposing voices. So the idea of having more than one protagonist in the war give a voice to not only that specific character, but that character's country as well. It shows the player how the war affected people right down to the human level. However, there is a downside to this. Not every main power that was in the war is given a voice. Notably absent from the base game are the French and Russian armies (NOTE - At the time of this posting, DLC for France and Russia has been confirmed).
Each of these stories, that are partially fictitious, in the campaign also take place during different years. One character's story might take place in 1915 whereas another might take place in 1918 showing us different altercations at different times and in different locations. Also, these stories and years do not go in order. For example, story number one is in 1918 and story two is 1917. It does work, but Battlefield 1 only gets away with this because there is no overall arching story that connects these five stories aside from the fact that they all take place within World War One. However, I personally feel, that this is the game's biggest oversight. These stories don't have to intersect per say, but having a main narrative of the start of and conclusion to the Great War would have been not only a great addition, but also a great learning experience. Again, there are tons of WWII shooter games, World War One is something that is not too commonly talked about and to have its story told in the video game medium would have been a great opportunity for a learning experience to many who might not know the subject very well.
If I can go into historian mode for a second, there is much debate on what was the solid reasoning and starting point for going into World War One, but many agree that it was due to the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Again, this is highly debatable amongst many, but it is used to bookend the beginnings of the war all the way to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles which "ended" the war. Battlefield 1 lacks any kind of narrative or motivations of these armies fighting each other (with the exception of each story's very brief set-up) and the player is just thrown into the action and know that you have to not die.
Another missed opportunity for the lack of overall arching story is the evolution of warfare. World War One was so important to the production of arms. When the war started, armies were practically still marching and/or on horseback. When the war ended, we had airplanes and tanks. Because of the scale of this war, it essentially changed how warfare was done and what weapons were used. Now, there are fictitious weapons within the game, and I think it is only fair to be able to suspend disbelief in order to have a fun gaming experience, but that doesn't mean you can't tell the story of warfare evolution.
The Multiplayer. I won't lie. I haven't touched it, so I can't really talk on the multiplayer. I barely like playing multiplayer games with my friends let alone a bunch of kids on the internet who just want to make "your mom" jokes. So, yeah. Not much from me here. I've heard it's great though.
In conclusion, Battlefield 1 does a great job of showing how the war affected the protagonists/people on a human level despite it not having a narrative for the overall war itself. I'm highly looking forward to seeing what EA/Dice will do with the future DLC of the French and Russian armies. Plus the game trailer with that really awesome version of The White Stripes "Seven Nation Army" is pretty badass too. Play it, it's great!
I'll probably get around to doing another one of these in a few months. Typical Lazy Gamer fashion, of course.
Also, if anyone is interested in books on World War One, please comment and I can post a list.