10 lies video games tell us about war

War. War never changes. Well, that's not quite true. We might be familiar with the concept of mass artillery and enemy warfare thanks to Call of Duty, Battlefield, Resistance (and way more games that we couldn't possibly list in full here), yet each one tweaks the nature of war to make it more exciting, more dynamic, more thrilling to make you spit out bullets like there's no tomorrow. Or you'll feel the weight of the moral greyness of endless battle on your shoulders and question whether true goodness could ever exist in such a hellish landscape. When it comes down to it, sometimes game developers stretch the truth in creative new ways in order to make the final product more entertaining. Here are 10 of the ways they've been fibbing to enhance gameplay over the years.

Lone wolves win wars

Everyone loves to feel important. Nobody wants to be a cog in the machine (unless they're a COG in Gears of War - but that's a different story). They want to be Master Chief, saving the world from aliens. They want to be the one that wins the war almost single-handedly, so it comes as little surprise that military games tend to cast the player as a solitary war machine who manages to single-handedly defeat the Nazi menace.

It's not that individual soldiers don't exhibit extraordinary bravery. It's that 100% of the time they're backed up by a team of highly-skilled experts who allow them to do what they do. It doesn't matter who you are. Even if you're a highly skilled Navy SEAL, if you go behind enemy lines without the aid of the rest of the US military then you are going to die. Fast.

Secret agents are the answer to everything

We're not sure why US generals ever feel stressed about anything. After all, as video games have explained to us over the years, if anything goes wrong you can just send in Sam Fisher to kill everyone. Like, literally everyone. Without any repercussions.

We're not entirely sure how often the United States employs secret spies behind enemy lines (because otherwise they wouldn't be secret) but we're pretty sure it isn't how Splinter Cell or Metal Gear Solid portray it. Either way, the better strategy for getting what we want is to sail a battlecruiser into someone's port and say, "What's it gonna be?" Right?

Getting behind enemy lines is easy

In any World War 2 game you'll inevitably be put into the shoes of a paratrooper and asked to jump behind enemy lines. These games pay lipservice to the danger by showing the anti-aircraft guns firing in the background, but rarely do they pose any actual danger. In reality, the life expectancy of a paratrooper was about twenty seconds back then, and had about a 50% casualty rate.

Not to mention the fact that there's really no guarantee that where you land is going to be somewhere significant. To our knowledge there's never been a game in which the main character landed in a wheat field, and spent three days hiking through no-man's-land to get to the mission only to die immediately or be taken hostage and held in a cell for four years.

The enemy sucks at everything

If video games are a solid representation of the struggle our grandparents and great-grandparents endured during World War 2 then we have no idea what took them so long to bring down Hitler. In video games, enemy soldiers tend to be pushovers, and you can kill 6-7 of them every time you raise your gun sights. How the Nazi soldiers in video games even make it out of bed without dying is a mystery to us.

Whatever their evils, German soldiers were just as capable and well-equipped as the allied soldiers were - and the same goes for other enemy armies in games. Yet in video games, the player is able to out-shoot, out-drive, and out-strategize them at every turn.

Wars are really exciting

Perhaps the largest problem that modern video games face in their depictions of war is the simple fact that they make war seem entertaining. Without even mentioning the horrible mental scars that are inflicted on many of those who fight for their country, there's also the problem of crushing boredom. Most of World War I was spent with opposing armies dying of diseases as they sat in trenches for months on end. Where's that game?

Maybe one day the video game industry will come around and make a video game that's entirely about going out on uneventful patrols, wondering what loved ones are up to, and whiling away the hours by playing video games on the base. It'll be super meta. You'll all love it.

Every soldier is John Wayne: President of the United States of Honor

All forms of entertainment love to distill war down to simple binary conflicts. In gaming we usually see evil war villains named Voldemort Bin Laden facing off against John Country, bastion of Liberty and Freedom. The game usually ends with Sgt. Country firing a shot through the head of V.B.L. in slow motion, as an eagle soars by with the Declaration of Independence in its talons, the Blue Angels flying overhead, and Springsteen piped through the PA system.

Reality isn't quite that simple. People who are fighting on any side of a conflict are rarely motivated by a desire to do evil (even if they end up doing evil things), unlike the many game characters that are trying to build nukes to rule the world just because. And as we've seen in the past, not everybody who is fighting on our side is an authority on morality either. The reality is that no nation has a monopoly on goodness.

(Pictured Above: Voldemort Bin MechaHitler, Tsar of Kicking Children)

International law is for greenhorns

It's usually only about five minutes into a video game before some general tells his super soldier right-hand-man that he should do what needs to be done to complete the mission. After all, international regulations are for politicians who don't understand the realities of the battlefield. You don't exist, you're a ghost, right?

Maybe that's true, but it's also true that if you're abandoning the rule of law then your cause is no better than the people you're fighting against. In fact, you might just be more evil than they are. Laws exist for a reason, folks, and you don't want to go down in history as a vicious war criminal even if your cause was just.

(Above: Torture was outlawed in the Geneva Conventions, Snake.)

Shooting humans with guns is easy

Video games probably wouldn't be all that fun if every gun shot slightly differently, or if the wind could alter your shots, or if they included no auto-aim. Most games these days include subtle auto-aim features to help your targeting reticule stick to the thing you're aiming at. Fortunately, that's not how things work in the real world.

In reality, it's quite difficult to shoot humans. We're shaped kind of funny, and we can run pretty fast. In fact, a study of police officers showed that accuracy decreases by a huge amount when the target is running. Since theres no snap-to on real guns, most of the bullets spent would be flying around your enemies feet.

Battles win wars

This lie may have been true way back in the old days when giant sword-and-shield armies would mash themselves together then see who had the most people left alive after a few hours of bloodshed. However, in the modern age, even the largest battles are mostly skirmishes for position, spilling buckets of blood so that one army can have control of a bridge or a hill.

The real - incredibly boring - key to victory in 20th and 21st century warfare is your supply chain. As previously discussed, in large wars most soldiers are identical. What matters most is how well equipped they are. It doesn't matter much if you have the larger force if your army is starving, has no winter clothes, and is low on ammunition.

War is right around the corner

There's never a war when you need one, is there? And when there is a war it's considered too taboo to base a game on it. The solution for many military shooter devs is to set their games in the near future, when the world is, yet again, all about war.

Inevitably, the near future holds some awful event that will push us into war. In Ghost Recon Island Thunder Fidel Castro dies and upsets the balance of power. In Black Ops 2 China is pushed into an escalating trade war with the US. These games love to pick one small event and imagine that it will snowball into World War 9. The truth is that most of these types of matters get ironed out with diplomacy before blood is ever shed, at least in the modern day.

We're not saying that you shouldn't enjoy war games. We'll be blasting fools in Black Ops 2 every night this week. We're just asking that you keep in mind that while our games are fun, they're generally a completely inaccurate representation of what soldiers go through to bring victory to their people.

Andrew Groen

Andrew is a freelance video game journalist, writing for sites like Wired and GamesRadar. Andrew has also written a book called EMPIRES OF EVE: A History of the Great Wars of EVE Online.