“Homefront”: a FPS game highlighting humanity through horrors of war
This article discusses a new video game called Homefront, set to release in March 2011. Homefront is a first-person-shooter (FPS) developed by Kaos Studios–a division of THQ, the publisher. It takes place in the year 2027, when the “world as we know it is unraveling after fifteen years of economic meltdown and widespread global conflict over dwindling natural resources,” and in the suburbs of “Everytown, USA,” in which America is powerlessly attacked without any allies to assist. Multiplayer tactical warfare integrates with an emotional, close-to-home plot, making Homefront a unique yet risky new approach to FPS games. The game is rated M for mature, but the content may disturb even the most mature audiences.
“Played from the perspective of a civilian resistance fighter, Homefront offers uneasy answers to the uneasy questions that those of us who experience war from afar aren’t necessarily forced to ask: What would you do if your country was being overrun by an occupational force? How would you fight back?”
This radical concept of bringing in the involvement and perspective of civilians in a FPS war game is what makes Homefront so different and controversial. As the article explains, Kaos Studios designed a familiar setting for the audience to play in–one with the common “Main Street,” a coffee shop, a school, etc. The quiet tranquility of a humble suburban town is not only something the audience can identify with, but characteristics which make the war attacks feel even more gruesome and personal.
“Citizens are forced to march into camps, families are separated, and some people are executed, their bodies left to rot where they fall. In the background, you hear Korean propaganda blasted on loud speakers. In one scene, a man makes a mad dash for freedom, only to get shot near the bus you’re on. His guts splatter across your window and slowly drip, obscuring your view.”
As you can conjure, this game is designed with the intent to affect the audience’s emotions and make them reflect on this realistic scenario. Other FPS games fail to even include the presence of civilians when towns are being destroyed. For example, the popular Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 contains war scenes that take place in civilian-based environments, but there are absolutely no civilians around. This detachment from reality allows players to ignore the consequences of their actions, and instead just focus on killing as many enemies as possible, bombing the target locations, saying “nice shot!” etc. Homefront, however, reveals the horrors and consequences that are not normally brought to players’ minds.
“Your rescue and escape will cause the death of other innocents. Is that something you can live with?”
I first heard about this game a couple days ago from the lead designer of Kaos Studios himself, Rex Dickson. It’s one of the first things he spoke about when he first sat down with me. Rex clearly had pride in this unique element Homefront brings to the genre of FPS gaming. He emphasized that where games need growth is in the emotional reactions of players, and how they deal with consequences of their actions. I couldn’t help asking Rex–(although this probably was not a favorable first impression)–whether or not this rawness will help or hurt the image of video games. As we all know, video games are already heavily criticized for their violence and graphic imagery. I think it’s likely that the press media would jump all over this with a negative spin. Rex himself asserted that after playing this game, the player will indeed feel disturbed, and that they should. He also said that the press is already talking about these issues in the game. However, he has a different perspective to offer. There is no more direct violence shown than in other mainstream video games: much of the violence is nearly suggested, such as witnessing a line of civilians led into a building, followed by the sound of gunfire and screams. To me, this still sounds horrifically violent–even if the audience isn’t actually seeing it. Although it is violent, though, I am still unsure whether this is necessarily a horrible element to include in video games. Video games are often, after all, a form of art designed with the intention to evoke an emotional response–especially games with well thought-out plots, which is the direction games have been taking. These kinds of emotional-instigator scenes described before are included in films and books to produce an emotional response, so they should be considered as functioning likewise in video games.
“While the concept requires a little suspension of disbelief, Kaos Studios has crafted an incredibly believable, gripping and horrifyingly graphic world where — not unlike real war — ordinary people are caught in the crossfire.”