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The biggest piece of news in years is that Osama Bin Laden is
dead. I'm as happy as anyone to hear it (USA!! USA! USA!) but with the
head of the snake that is Al Qaeda cut off, will modern military shooters be left
without a default bad guy for gamers to fight? If we'll be spending less
time avenging 9/11 on virtual terrorists, who will be the new go to gaming
After 9/11 a wave of shooter games swept over the market which allowed gamers to vent our fury by gunning down fictional terrorists based on Al Qaeda in games like SOCOM, and the anti-terrorist theme has held true right up to current blockbuster shooters like the revamp of Medal of Honor.
Of course, terrorism will continue to exist even without Bin Laden, but now that the worst terrorist of them all has been brought down, gamers are likely to lose interest in the catharsis brought on by killing computer-generated substitutes for our real world enemies. Upcoming games, and those currently in development are likely to need a quick change in terms of who players will fight, and more importantly why we should be so invested in slaughtering imaginary foes.
Nazis have been the politically correct punching bag for game designers since the very dawn of the shooter genre, dating all the way back to Wolfenstein 3D which actually used cyborg Hitler as an end boss. However, the Nazis just aren't a credible threat in modern or near-future settings. The same hold true for Evil Robots who are so often to blame for the problems of the distant future. While Zombie Horde mode makes a popular minigame, it has never taken center stage in the many military shooters that employ it. So what real-world, present-day enemies are left?
North Koreans for one.
These communist fanatics led by a madman have been featured in the
Crysis series, serving as the main threat until the player gets deeper into the
story and encounters aliens. The North Koreans also made their way into
the near-future setting of Homefront, which attempted to tell a serious story
that takes place in an America conquered by these invaders. Easily demonized
because of their reclusiveness and cult-like behavior, they might be seen in
many more games in the coming months.
Russians played a big part in Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2. They were America’s default enemy during the cold war, but unfortunately became our friends just then the shooter genre appeared. Now that Vladimir Putin is strutting around Moscow like a James Bond villain, it’s perfectly acceptable to view his people are scary and wrong. With a massive nuclear arsenal, and decades of ill will, those Ruskies could end up as the next group we love to hate.
Gangs cause all sorts of trouble in urban areas. If Bin Laden’s death marks a reduction in America’s foreign wars, perhaps attention will turn to the lawless scum that chokes the gutters of our fair cities? Maybe gamers will turn their focus toward becoming the rain that will wash this scum off the streets. The Max Payne series put players in the shoes of a hard-boiled ex-cop who’s out to bring down drug-peddlers, along with other scofflaws. Will the upcoming third game in the series get a boost in popularity due to Bin Laden's death?
While the Grand Theft Auto games generally placed the player as
a criminal themselves, usually missions involved fighting other criminals who
were greater evils. Players might find themselves more interested in fighting American criminals as
part of an anti-gang police unit, rather than combating far-off enemies in
distant Middle Eastern nations.
Another, less optimistic notion is that terrorists might continue to be such a thorn in America’s side that they will remain our primary gaming foe for years to come. Still, we can all set down our controllers for a few days and take pride in our country’s defeat one terrorist mastermind who won’t be respawning.