War in videogames tends to be glossy at best: a convenient arena in which engine technology can be touted, power fantasies can be enacted, and toppled foes can be teabagged. Take away the unspeakable horrors of the reality, give it a topcoat of romanticisation, and war is heroic, explosive, and highly competitive. In other words, war in games can be, well, rather gamey.
Games rarely slow down to reflect on what war really means. The human cost, spurious politics, the lives of those surviving amidst the ruins that serve as your playground, and the psychological toils of those fighting it are often absent.
Maybe that is changing a bit. Both Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Wwii allow for a few moments of introspection (though let’s try to forget about WWII’s Omaha Beach social hub, shall we?). But, for the most part, it has been left to less high-profile studios to ruminate on this subject over the years. I talked with three such developers about how they use the medium to inspire powerful ways of thinking about war.
You might not think L.A. Noire is a war game but, in fact, it's one of the most authentic ever made.