Once upon a time World War II was a favorite subject of video games, especially first person shooters (FPS). It’s where the series “Call of Duty” got its start, first on personal computers, then on video game consoles. Nowadays such series foucus on modern and future combat, weaving missions into narratives that question the very subject of the game (and the interest of the player).
Previous conflicts have not fared so well in the FPS genre. Efforts to present the Civil War on video game consoles proved feeble. Here and there PC efforts gained an audience, but on the whole the pre-World War II period were represented by titles that explored conflicts, campaigns, and battles. One exception was aerial combat, but that seemed to be in part because the differences between World War I and World War II dogfighting were not great (as opposed to the heat-seeking missiles, sometimes offered in incredible payloads, for more modern games such as the Ace Combat series).
This fall, however, video game consoles will turn to World War I with the appearance of Verdun (a PC port) and Battlefield I. The makers of the latter game have offered twelve minutes of in-game action for us to absorb.
Of especial note is that when “you” die, you die. As a player, you assume someone else’s character, but the character that dies is not doing to be revived by the reset button or some other eternal life device.
Having not played Verdun and with Battlefield I delayed for the XBox1, I can’t tell you how the games play, or how they simulate anything. We’ll see whether a grittier view of war is something that video gamers want to explore.