Feb 22 2013

Interstellar Militarization: Video Games’ Obsession With Space Marines

futuristic-warhammer-40k-space-marine-helmet-23071So we talked about content creation last week, but this time around we’re going to chat about an issue of a lack of original content. More and more we’re seeing a trend developing in the gaming industry that promotes the idea of space marines. These games frequently involve a single soldier or squad of galactic military men being pitted against a huge, seemingly unstoppable onslaught of alien forces. While the idea of humans vs aliens is a rivalry that the science-fiction genre has done for years, recently we’ve seen the humans take a more militaristic approach to space exploration and colonization. Let’s run through the list:

  • In the Halo universe, the United Nations Space Command seeks to explore new worlds and galaxies while fending off both Covenant and Flood forces. The series’ protagonists, the Spartans, are a breed of super soldiers designed by the government for the sole purpose of combat.
  • In Gears of War, the Coalition of Ordered Governments’ Delta Squad fight against all odds to save what remains of the human race, while also putting up with Dom crying about his wife the whole time.
  • Mass Effect’s Commander Shepherd works with certain aliens and against other kinds in order to save the human race as well as the galaxy.
  • Aliens: Colonial Marines, very recently released by Sega and Gearbox, features US Marines against the xenomorphs from the Alien series. Because that’s never been done before.
  • Warhammer 40K: Space Marine. Do I even need to explain this one?
  • The Dead Space series’ transition from survival-horror to action-horror also sees a transition of the main character from outer-space repair man to galactic and grizzled alien slayer.

spacemarineBut the question remains: Why has this space marine trend flourished so recently, and so well? One possible reason I have is that it is out of respect and admiration for the men and women in service. Despite what your opinions may be on the military in general, or your opinions for the higher-ups who make the decisions that some may see as controversial, you can not have anything but respect and pride for those who enlist, because they desire nothing more than to defend their country. The problem with realistic military shooters is that the violence is at the expense of another group of people, whether it be Russians or terrorists or whatever. And in games like Call of Duty, who’s good and who’s bad isn’t always black and white. Although in-game they are painted as the enemy, and although they’re just AI-controlled computer models, they are soldiers just like your character, and are trying to survive the carnage of war just as you are. I’m never not proud of my killstreaks, but keep in mind, that’s three to nine human lives you just took. The idea of space marines vs aliens is similar to WWII shooters in a way that across all of the games in the respective genre, there is always a common enemy that needs to be stopped. Yes, Nazis were human beings just like us, but it is easy, game-developer wise, to justify killing a Nazi, and even more easy to justify killing an alien. Can’t wait for an inevitable Nazi alien shooter [Ed’s Note: You mean Killzone?]. Lastly though, a big reason why the space marine genre has blasted off is due to the limitless potential of creative content. Because the universe is so expansive and infinite, the possibilities for new worlds, alien races, weapons, and stories are endless. As long as a developer has a good group of setting and story designers, this genre will carry into infinity and beyond. By the way, I would pay all of my money for a gritty, realistic, mature shooter centered around Buzz Lightyear.

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