I remember playing this one campaign level in Empire Earth where I was given the control of four nuclear missile bases. Oh man, I was hyped. Any enemy unit or building that wasn’t covered up by the fog of war was vulnerable to my nuclear attacks. My attack gunships soon spotted an enemy tank factory. I clicked on one of my nuke missle bases, went over to the tank factory and right-clicked. Pshoo, the nuke went up in the air. Just to see what it would do, I left my screen on the tank factory. A minute later, the missile came crashing down. Boom! A mushroom cloud enveloped the area. I was so excited. And then the dust cleared. The tank factory was still there, just 15,000 hit points weaker.
I know it’s a video game and so it really wouldn’t be fun if nukes were overly powerful but I do get a bit upset when I see that no game ever explains the actual consequences of a nuclear blast. I will forgive rts games but this recent trend of showing nuclear blasts in fps games really has me a bit perturbed. So many games treat nuclear weapons just as a powerful weapon that can kill a lot of people. That’s the shallow portrayal of nukes in modern games and there’s only one franchise I’ve played where nukes are treated seriously and gravely (metal gear series).
The other games, nukes happen and that’s it. There’s a nuclear explosion in Crysis, as well as in Call of Duty 4, World in Conflict, Splinter Cell Double Agent (the second ending)… None of these games actually treat these explosions more than just a typical explosion. They show these scenes that are semi-dramatic and try to show a bit of the impact (e.g. the scene in COD4 where the guy tries to crawl out of the damaged helicopter) but when’s all said and done, it’s time for the next mission and we can’t ever be sure if there really was a nuclear explosion. It’s dismissed and forgotten.
What upsets me is the fact that a nuke in real life is not something to be taken so lightly. The atomic bomb, which is 1/100 of what a nuke would do now, still affects the lives of the people in Hiroshima and Negasaki. People are still being born with multiple arms and mutations resulting from radiation due to the nuclear blast. There are people who’ve gone blind and developed cancer in the U.S. from having watched the nuclear explosion tests miles and miles away even though these tests were made 50,000 feet above ground. Here’s a simple fact: a normal nuclear bomb today can level 50 square miles and radiate 300 square miles. This means that the largest city in the U.S. (Los Angeles) could be decimated by one single nuclear bomb. United States currently has about 27,000 of these horrible bombs.
Of course, most of these games feature thermo-nuclear bombs, which do about 25 square miles radius of blast damage with low to no radiation but they have never actually been tested so we have no idea if they cause no radiation or not. Even these “conventional” nuclear missiles aren’t something to overlook. Trust me, should one of these be used, it’s not something that’ll be overlooked like it happens in these video games. Nukes should scare the crap out of every one of us.
The thing that makes me upset is the fact that the younger generation of gamers are affected by how nukes are portrayed in video games, in movies, and in novels. I remember one of my friends saying, “Just nuke the Middle East, that’ll solve the problem.” I was shocked. And I heard these kinds of statements from some of the kids I have tutored in the past as well. I don’t know what the general perception of a nuclear missile is, but I sure as well hope that the perception is not based off of the portrayals seen in the likes of video games. Nukes are horrible, terrifying, world-destroying weapons. We’re only lucky that the global policy of detente worked so well during the Cold War. Otherwise, there are enough nukes existing today to destroy the world several times over.