As fought in: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
What it is: A full-scale invasion of the US East Coast, sparked by a misunderstanding following the discovery of an American agent’s body at a Russian airport massacre.
Pointless because: The entire war was masterminded by one man, Lt. Gen. Shepherd, your commander for most of the game. The Russian terrorists who committed the “No Russian” airport atrocity were working for him, and the CIA agent you played as during that sequence was set up to be a patsy from the start. The whole thing was an act of petty revenge on Shepherd’s part, because not enough people felt bad when thousands of his troops were nuked in Call of Duty 4. But by bringing war to the doorsteps of civilians, he muses, he’ll drive up military recruitment and ensure that everyone knows what it means to be a soldier, or something. It’s kind of half-baked.
Also half-baked? Thinking that sparking a full-on conventional war between Russia and the US won’t have farther-reaching consequences than everyone wanting to be a soldier. There’s a reason the Cold War never went completely hot, and it’s the same one that killed Shepherd’s troops: nuclear weapons. Luckily, nobody thinks of them except for when Capt. Price detonates one in space to “stop” the war with an EMP blast, thus putting the American and Russian troops on more or less equal footing. At least Price recognized how utterly stupid the whole invasion was, even before he knew who was really behind it.
As fought in: Vanquish
What it is: An invasion to free an American space colony that’s been hijacked by a Russian-ultranationalist robot army and used as a weapon of mass destruction against San Francisco.
Pointless because: Vanquish might be totally unrelated to Modern Warfare 2, but like Shepherd’s little recruitment stunt, this war was an inside job. It’s pretty hard to argue that striking back against the seizure of a multi-trillion-dollar space platform and subsequent destruction of a city is “pointless,” but what else do you call it when the whole ordeal was set in motion by your own president?
Above: President Winters chats with her former buddy
In an effort to bring the faltering economy back to life, US President Eilzabeth Winters backed a coup of the Russian government by the ultranationalist Order of the Russian Star, just so the US would have a new enemy to go to war against. Correctly suspecting they were about to be betrayed, the Order then immediately invaded the Providence space colony, using it against the US before it could be used against Moscow. And they did this apparently without spending a single Russian life, as the US threw countless live Marines against a wall of robotic Russian steel.
Above: And all these cool space battleships, too
Not even villain Victor Zaitsev was present, instead attacking hero Sam Gideon by remote control before nuking Providence into space dust. So, to summarize: Russian ultranationalists (who would never have been in power if the US hadn’t wanted to create an enemy to fight against) start a robot war in space to seize a secret superweapon intended for use against America’s self-created enemies. Awesome, yes, but also moronic and completely unnecessary.
As fought in: Darksiders
What it is: Not to be confused with Tom Clancy's EndWar, the Endwar is a world-ending battle between Heaven and Hell, fought in an alternate take on Christian mythology in which angels and demons are two warring cosmic forces mediated by a neutral “council” of screaming stone heads.
Pointless because: It’s never entirely clear why Darksiders’ versions of Heaven and Hell want to annihilate each other in the first place, but they had an agreement in place: they wouldn’t go to war until the Seventh Seal was broken, signifying that humankind had advanced enough to join and survive a war between the two sides. OK, fine; assuming both sides have their motivations, and they want humanity to play a part, that seems like as good a setup as any for a videogame war. Or it would, if the Seventh Seal hadn’t been broken early.
It’s not until Darksiders’ final act that you’ll actually learn why the Seal was broken early: fearing that waiting too long would allow Hell to become stronger than Heaven, the angel general Abaddon decided to covertly break and then repair the Seal, kicking off hostilities while covering up who had done so. Naturally, his plan backfired, Hell won, and humanity and the angels were exterminated – with Abaddon’s help. After being seemingly killed in the war’s first battle, Abaddon eagerly accepted a second chance at life, on the condition he lead Hell’s armies as The Destroyer.
Above: Do not trust this man
So, let’s recap: An angel wants Hell to lose the Endwar so badly that he starts it early, only to die in battle. Rather than accept defeat, he eagerly makes a Faustian pact, turns on his comrades and becomes the lynchpin of Hell’s near-total victory. All in all, a well-thought-out plan.