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The Top 7… Pointless game wars

2. The Great War

As fought in: Iron Storm (aka World War Zero: IronStorm)

What it is: World War I, but extended by about 50 years and made more dense and confusing.

Pointless because: While it probably made sense at the time, World War I was, in retrospect, an unimaginably stupid meatgrinder into which an entire generation was fed, headfirst, by the bloated imperial powers of the old world. It wasn’t fought for lofty ideals or against a totalitarian regime, like World War II, but instead was spurred on by old European alliances and power-hungry monarchies that no longer exist. The backstory for Iron Storm, then, took one of the most pointless conflicts of the 20th century, and made it even more pointless by extending it well into the ‘60s.

On top of that, Iron Storm makes WWI more complicated. Rather than sticking with the war’s original political makeup, Iron Storm creates an alternate past in which the Allies become the United States of Western Europe, and are pitted against a fictitious Russo-Mongolian Empire. There’s also some nonsense about armies being financed by trading themselves on the US stock market, and an effort to add some immediacy by making it all about a conquest-hungry warlord – although really, it all just seems to be an excuse to combine modern-day weapons and vehicles with endless, corridor-like trenches. The goals are unclear, the motivations cynical and the outlook bleak. If that’s not a pointless war, what is?

1. The Console War

As fought in: Hyperdimension Neptunia (and the real world, kinda)

What it is: A four-way fight for supremacy between hypersexualized female stand-ins for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii and Neptune. (That last one, incidentally, is a canceled Sega console, predating the Saturn and Dreamcast, that would have combined the Genesis and 32X into one unit.)

Pointless because: Ordinarily, an entry like this might be a sweaty bit of oh-aren’t-we-just-so-damned-clever finger-wagging about “you crazy kids and your made-up tribal allegiances to game machines created by multinational megacorporations” – but fortunately, there’s now a game that makes that point for us. It’s kind of dull even by JRPG standards, but if Hyperdimension Neptunia has anything going for it, it’s that it’s kind of an irresistible parody of the game industry and its assorted tropes. At the heart of that parody is a winner-take-all battle between four “goddesses” – each representing a game console – which is ultimately meaningless to everyone except them.

In fact, even the goddesses themselves eventually realize the futility of their constant fighting, and join forces to fight their common enemy: the villainess Arfoire, a stand-in for software piracy (her name being a play on the infamous, piracy-enabling R4 cards for DS). What did they accomplish in the meantime? About as much as gets accomplished in the average forum argument, which makes us wonder if the parody is meant to teach us all a lesson. Too bad the game itself can feel pretty pointless at times, too; otherwise, we might actually pay a little more attention to its message.

Feb 28, 2011

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After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.