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Angelini Talks Gaming With DEVGRU Operator Craig Sawyer

Is Too Much Realism A Bad Thing?

Tom’s Hardware: What do you see as the greatest misconception about real-world combat perpetuated by games or movies, both with regard to weapons and hand-to-hand?

Craig Sawyer: Wow, there’s a lot to share with this one. I'd say the greatest misconception is in the lack of consideration of "team" in gaming. I understand why the single-player component of games is so important, but that's something very different from the reality of Spec Ops. In the real world, we move as a well-coordinated unit, acting in unison to navigate through dangerous situations with each man covering the others. You don't just go sprinting around, making stuff up as you go. There's a real objective and a team effort to consider. That comes first.

The second greatest misconception has to do with combat casualties. Emergency medical treatment is something we must deal with a lot in the real world. When you're in close proximity and there's a heavy volume of fire, people are usually getting hit, which means serious injury or death. That's not a very fun element to add to a game. In a training simulator, I would incorporate that at the highest level of importance, just under the primary skill set of kicking ass and winning the fight. 

As for hand-to-hand combat, it should be made much more realistic, even in games. I'm a fighter. I grew up fighting on the street, in tournaments, and then really got into the combat style of hand-to-hand in the military. From that experience, I can assure you a man doesn't go down faster from one knife slash than he does from multiple shots to the face at close range. That's one thing that has always bugged me about games and movies. If you're going to take someone out with a knife, it should be made more difficult to achieve and definitely not instantaneous. Multiple shots to the brain, or one through the brain from a larger caliber, will give you that instant incapacitation effect. Other, less lethal options should be adjusted to be more realistic.

A greater emphasis on teamwork is missing from today's games, according to Craig

Tom’s Hardware: This actually goes both ways, too. Can a game still be fun if I get shot, say, in the leg and consequently lose significant mobility until I’m able to "med-up?" The concept of damage as a percentage of health seems so egregiously unrealistic, and I’d be curious to see what a game could do with a better sense of “damage zones” and what they mean to combat effectiveness.

Craig Sawyer: I'd like to see something like this develop further, too. As a war fighter, it's important to know the proper response to common combat trauma wounds. If you don't know what to do, Murphy's Law demands your buddy will bleed out unnecessarily over something you could have easily prevented with the appropriate aid. Direct pressure, timely application of a tourniquet, clearing the airway, and executing a needle decompression cover the overwhelming majority of immediate, life-threatening combat trauma situations. If you know how and when to perform those basics, you can save a lot of your brothers. First, you have to win the fight, though. It's no good working to save your buddy if you're both still under effective fire.

Presenting some of those ideas in a more realistic combat game could be rewarding if they're done correctly. It's one more responsibility we have in the real world. One more thing to prepare for that means the difference between life and death. I think it's the next logical step in tactical gaming.

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.