Some time ago, I posted an article on the generic locations used by many games, and put forth the proposal of developers going to a war far removed from any they've portrayed (however accurately or poorly) so far. Perhaps I was setting the bar too high. Perhaps it's too much to expect from the modern PC gaming industry, where large developers are so single-mindedly fixated on churning out the next reiteration of the same game in time to seize the Christmas market (yes, Activision, I am talking about you right now) that any suggestion of originality warrants the deposing of a studio's chiefs.
Maybe we should take this a little slower, then. So here's my new proposal: why not stick with the same locations, but go to a different war. Surely this isn't too much to ask? There have been plenty of wars in every developer's favourite areas, so it's not as if there's a lack of choice. In Europe alone, war has been raging since the dawn of time and it's only since WWII that things have settled down. The Middle East has probably never been at peace in human history. Likewise, central and south-east Asia have been hotbeds for conflicts through the ages.
As the favourite of late seems to be the Middle-Eastern Area of Operations, let's go to Afghanistan. But how about we do it differently this time? No more ACU-clad Americans. No more high-tech rifles which will never actually end up replacing anything, let alone the M4. No, let's take a trip back in time to the 1979-1989 conflict with the Soviet Union, in what has come to be known as their own Vietnam.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I watched Charlie Wilson's War recently. By recently, I actually mean yesterday. I see no reason this game does not exist, aside from the industry's apparent reluctance to make anyone who isn't American (or sometimes British) appear good at all, let alone a heroic character. The war was long, was bloody, and had a distinct turning point; it had a spectacular victory by the underdog, only to plunge back into chaos due to cessation of support from the US government; it had plenty of intrigue, thanks to the incredible scheme that saw the utterly outgunned and outmatched mujahideen armed with Stinger missiles. The Soviet helicopters, in particular the Mi-24 gunships, had been the absolute scourge of the Afghan resistance fighters. However, as the imposing machines began to fall from the sky, the entire course of the war changed and the eventual withdrawal by the unsuccessful Soviet invasion force was considered a contributing factor in the crumbling of the USSR.
So once again, I'm putting out a challenge. Quit working on the tenth samey re-release of a tired series, and put the love back into games that has been missing from the mainstream for years now. Eventually even the drooling diehards, who are currently oblivious to the sharp decline in quality of their favourite franchises, will come about. Try actually doing something different, something which sets you apart from the rest of the industry. Who knows, you may even make a killing.