By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
"Video games are video games," he told the Cox News Service last week. "There is almost zero translation of skill in playing Ages of Empire to warfare." He says such games' greatest benefit is that new recruits come in techno-savvy.
Blount, with experience in both worlds, agrees. "Even the tactics are only comparable in the broadest sense," he says. "World War II Online models the equipment so faithfully that many of the specific tactics applicable to late 1990s technology don't work with 1930s equipment."
But, Blount notes, the game is similar to real life in a more subtle way. "It has its celebrities and scapegoats, its cliques and pariahs; it's not unlike the cross section of personalities you get in the military."
"At one point, there was a change in the German high command," Sherland recalls. "One guy was leaving and another taking over. And they had an in-game changing-of-command ceremony where they had infantry guys lined up in a square, and the guy walked down the square. He made a chat speech, then there was this parade of tanks. It was a completely non-combat ceremony."
Sherland also remembers a similar scene, when a well-liked gamer passed away, in which fighters conducted fly-bys in "miss-you" formations, and cease-fires were honored. "I don't think many people who aren't playing games or who aren't in a massively multiplayer community are aware that this kind of stuff even goes on."
He and the other Rats are confident that such displays will continue as the game develops, as new theaters and subscribers are added. For now, they say, they're just glad that someone wants to talk about the game's future instead of its past. They're hopeful that World War II Online's successes won't be ignored outside the massive multiplayer community much longer.
The troops, for once, agree. "The concept of a massively multiplayer 'virtual battlefield' was something that all the major movers and shakers attempted and abandoned, or simply wrote off as impossible," Steven Cochran says. "It took a small band of guys in Bedford to prove them wrong. They're bringing the world something the multimillion-dollar corporations couldn't. It's nice to see David succeed where Goliath failed."