asrabkin: (Default)
[personal profile] asrabkin
Ever since I was about 10, I've had a fondness for history-themed computer games. Somehow I still find time for it in my life, but I enjoy them in slightly different ways at this point.

I find that I often understand history much better as a result of gaming. Partly looking at the game leaves me curious about the situation being depicted so I do my reading. But also, a game forces you to think in detail and think from the perspective of a particular actor. And that often draws your attention to constraints that you would otherwise not have seen.

I just started playing Matrix Games' enormous and complex "War in the Pacific" game. This is a simulation of WW2 in the pacific, at the detail of individual ships and battalions. It does reasonably well at managing the pieces -- your battalions group into regiments and divisions, your ships form task forces -- but the complexity is staggering. And my sense is that the creators have done a great deal of archival work to get details of ship and unit locations, strengths, armaments, etc.

And the game has drawn my attention to several things I didn't notice.

First, it left me with a new-found appreciation of land-based airpower. I saw a nice summary of this in one of the books I got inspired to read. The pacific war was first an air war, then a naval war, and only last a land war. Since mostly the war was fought on small islands far from major industrial regions, ground forces without naval supply would quickly lose all combat effectiveness. But running convoys through areas with hostile air power was suicide. Therefore, the war was basically fought over control of key air base locations from which sea control could be exerted.

Popular histories often emphasize the sea battles and heroism on the ground without forcing the reader's attention to this dynamic. But when you play a reasonably accurate game, this becomes obvious. After having a few of your convoys savaged by Bettys early in the war, you learn that you *must* have air control to move your cargoes.

Second, I understand much better what the war was fought over. Looking at the map, you notice that basically the thing Japan was trying to do was conquer the Dutch East Indies and Burma, with the Philippines thrown in as appetizer. And they basically achieved that within the first six months, and kept most of it for the whole war. Their challenge after the first six months was just to hang on.

Date: 2017-05-18 06:09 pm (UTC)
diapasoun: (Default)
From: [personal profile] diapasoun
Have you ever played Europa Universalis or Crusader Kings? They're long-arc historical strategy games that are definitely good for history nerds. (Chris plays them, and it's amazing how much history he knows because of these games.) Definitely not the level of close detail that you're talking about here, though.

Date: 2017-05-18 06:41 pm (UTC)
diapasoun: (Default)
From: [personal profile] diapasoun
Yes, so true on the Hundred Years' War! And that's such a nice succinct summary of it. ;)

Also super true about the mechanics. Game design mechanics are SO intriguing to me.

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