Let's start with a simple question; How does the title of this article make you feel? Read it again and just sit with it for a second or two. 
Maybe initially it makes you feel a little uncomfortable or awkward? I use the term "awkward" as a broad stroke term to capture a whole range of possible emotions that we often feel but initially struggle to define. We feel something isn't right, but aren't quite sure what until we dig a little deeper and give it more thought.

I believe and hope that this phrase does evoke some emotion or at least spark a little cognitive processing about what the phrase implies. I imagine varying reactions following themes of "Hmm that doesn't sound right" or "That's a thoughtless thing to say" to "What a disgraceful turn of phrase!", which were actually my sequential responses, the latter being modified here to make printable.

I acknowledge that my emotions towards war are especially heightened right now due to it being November and close to Remembrance Day, so hearing "war" and "glorious" in the same sentence prickles just a little more uncomfortably at the moment, although I'm sure I wouldn't be any less perturbed by it at any other time of year. 

Maybe I'm wrong and this title doesn't stir up much of anything within the majority of the population. It’s possible that I'm slightly too absorbed in my own visceral reaction upon hearing this phrase and I'm projecting that everyone else will surely respond in a similar fashion.

As this line continues to buzz around inside my head it's becoming my mosquito in the bedroom. It appears to be a fairly innocuous little thing at first, but the harder I try to ignore it, the more irritating it becomes, to the point where it isn't just evoking emotion, its provoking a response.

So where, (you may be wondering) did I hear this line? It is a tag-line, a marketing hook, the attention grabbing phrase used in an advert for a new video game called Battlefield 4 where gamers are invited and indeed encouraged to sign up and experience "the glorious mind-blowing freedom" that this particular game has to offer. This zinger of a catch phrase has been cunningly crafted by a marketing team to inspire the listener to jump off the couch, dash to the mall, purchase the game and dive headlong into "all-out war."

The target demographic for games of this type are males, aged 13 to 24 who, as I’m sure extensive research will show, have "all-out war" near the top of their priority list, second only to losing both their virginity and their acne.

Of course the "all-out war" in which the game developer invites you to participate takes place entirely within a computer simulated cyber-land; an insane place where players can destroy at will, kill without conscience or consequence, and even die without pain and suffering. It’s a Utopian dream-space where people have an infinite number of lives and can repeatedly rise from the dead to continue their glorious journey through a computer generated environment of blood, bullets and body parts that would be a detestable living hell- if it were real life.

At this point I’m sure some readers, especially those within the aforementioned demographic, may say I'm over-reacting to what is essentially "just a game" and I should “chill out” about it. They may think I'm one of many extremist right-wing religious reactionaries out there who voice beliefs that these types of video games are pure evil and will spawn a wave of real life serial killers wanting to grab an AK-47 and shoot up their school. Far from it. I firmly believe that playing these games is as likely to turn a decent kid into a psycho as listening to Iron Maiden could have made me one. However, if someone is already a little unhinged and has murderous intent, it’s not beyond belief that this type of game could nudge them over the edge into making their imaginary rampage a reality. There has been extensive research into whether or not there is a link between violent games and violent crimes. Most of the studies I found concluded with a resounding "not", but predictably a few were adamant that there “is” a connection. However, all research showed that 100% of all mass shootings occurred when the killer had access to real guns firing real bullets.  That data is bullet proof. Pun intended.

Just to be clear here, I'm really not against playing video games. In fact, violent games against human beings aside and with elements of common sense and moderation in place, I'm quite pro-games. I wilfully dedicated large chucks of my formative years to gaming and it filled the gaps between chasing girls, dabbling with alcohol and playing soccer. Actually, upon reflection, that only left small chunks of time for playing video games, but play them I did and loved every minute.

This article isn’t even protesting "shoot'em up" games where players have a multitude of devastating weapons to use while running around wreaking havoc and killing things at will. Notice I said "things" there and not “people”. When a video game called ‘Doom’ was released in 1995, I was one of the 10,000,000 people who marched into battle as a Space Marine to blast my way through hordes of demonic creatures sent from hell. I was preventing humankind from being overrun by these terrifying blood thirsty beasts and I’m sure I saved thousands of innocent lives. You're welcome!

The game ushered in a new "first-person" shooter video game genre and pioneered 3D graphics which were almost hypnotic back then, having never been seen before. It was visually spectacular and realistic for that era, although laughable to the youth of today. It made the adrenaline pump and as a result was highly addictive and thoroughly appealing to me at that age, although it still didn't quite have the allure of girls, beer and football.

I think I can say without contradiction that signing up to be a Space Marine to fight demons is quite a leap from the reality in which we live, or at least at the time of writing this it is and hopefully will remain so. One area of modern gaming that I do find disturbing is just how many modern games synchronize with real world events both past and present. In fact, certain game developers have specifically chosen to recreate some of humanity's darkest chapters as a gaming environment. To have any knowledge of what took place during the D-Day landings, as one example, and then to hear of it being graphically recreated as a "play" area, I feel is offensive and totally disrespectful to every man that fought and died there. You can now sit comfortably in your room and storm the beaches of Normandy, watch everyone get blown to pieces with incredible 3D realism, then nip downstairs for pop and pizza before trying again. Game developers have been competing for years, pushing graphics capabilities to the limits in the pursuit of realism, making it possible for us to see human bodies explode in gory detail. Every teenagers dream surely? I wonder what the 156,000 men who braved these horrors in real life would have to say about people re-enacting the hell they went through and witnessing the ways in which their friends were killed, all with such graphic realism. If they were offended, would we tell them not to over-react and that it’s “just a game”?

It is well documented that some military forces from various countries invest millions in war game development as a recruiting and training tool. (No prizes for guessing which country spends the most). Some games even carry advertisements within them so that after you are killed, you can click on an icon and be taken to the Army recruitment website. It sounds too ludicrous to be true doesn't it? I wonder if it’s only when you reach a certain score? "Kill 100 enemy soldiers and get a free enrolment officer sent to your door!" I'm being ridiculous, of course; it would be way less than 100 kills.

Time has inevitably eroded memories and made society less aware of WWI and WWII and I'm sure we are collectively more ignorant of the unspeakable horrors that took place. We aren't teaching it much in schools anymore and the incredible men and women that fought are almost entirely gone so we can no longer relate to that time through their stories. With distance comes dissociation followed by de-sensitivity. I think if these types of games had been around in the 60's or 70's there would have been public outrage, calling for the games to be banned. Back then there were still enough people alive who experienced the world at war first hand and would not accept making it into an ultra-realistic "game" for future generations merely to entertain themselves. They fought their way through it to protect their children from it, didn't they?

Thankfully we all still honour the veterans of all wars on Remembrance Day, and I dare speculate that even very young children know why we wear poppies on November the 11th. Sadly, with each passing generation it naturally becomes less meaningful and as the last of the veterans from WWII pass on, that particular war will fade even further into the mists of time like many before it. My generations’ grandparents fought and lived through that war. We could listen to stories, learn lessons and still be emotionally connected to that war somehow through them. Most teenagers today never knew their great-grandparents so they are even more disconnected from that period in history and events of that time. I’m sure there were thousands of school kids that wore their poppy at school, half-listened to some teacher talk about the meaning of it, only to go back home and re-enact the deaths of the men that the poppy is supposed to honour without giving them a second thought. Wouldn't it be a fantastic tribute if all the young war gamers around the world would put down their pixelated weapons and call a cease-fire, even just for that one day?

“Boys will be boys” as the saying goes, and they will continue to mimic real life battles and fighting. Throughout the history of mankind, all over the planet, little kids have been picking up sticks and swashbuckling with them, re-enacting daring battles until a rap on the knuckles ended the game in tears and an argument. Males are testosterone driven creatures- aggression is in their DNA and needs to be vented somehow. That’s why sports were invented. Pick one, Go play outside. That will release pent up energy and, as an added bonus, keep diabetes at bay. A healthier option than sitting and staring at a screen re-enacting your ancestors’ worst nightmares surely?

There may be an argument saying that in some way having these games helps to educate and maintain an awareness of some of the terrible battles in history and the sacrifices made. Bringing the horrors of war so realistically to life inside gaming platforms and into the minds of the next generation could, in fact, be a powerful war deterrent and promote pacifism, providing they perceive the chasm of separation between real war and its gaming counterpart. My concern is that some game creators appear to be purposefully obscuring that perception, especially those funded with military money. Their mission, if they chose to accept, is to make going to war seem so appealing to their young players that they will cross the chasm and sign up.

I wish we lived in a world where the only real violence in society was in cyber-land, where the youth of today sign up in their millions to be space marines defending us all from demons. Unfortunately some humans will continue to hate each other and real life "demons" will continue to rise to power and need defeating. Young men and women will be called into real action, none of which will be glorious or mind-blowing, at least not until afterwards when someone makes a video game about it for the next wave of potential recruits to play.

There are many reasons we wear our poppies on Remembrance Day, most of which are succinctly expressed with "Lest we forget." We make the effort to honour and respect the millions of soldiers that lost their lives and to remind ourselves of the insanity of war in the hope it is never repeated. To me it seems that creating these realistic true event war games does just the opposite and is the antithesis of the poppy’s symbolism. Connecting such words as “glorious”, “freedom” and “war” in any sentence within any context is more than just misleading and thoughtless; it’s dangerous. It creates a false impression in young minds that are out of touch with harsh war realities and in sync with war game “glory”.

Yes, I know, they are talking about a game and the" mind blowing freedom" refers to the freedom of motion and interactive experiences you can have within the game. You are free to do whatever you like in this virtual world. Another quote from the advert mentions that players can "joy-ride in a tank."  And so the line blurs.

Is it too much to ask that game developers leave some things sacred? Could they show more respect to the millions who died in our historic battles and honour their memory by not "playing" in the battlefields where people fought and died? Often these real world battlefields are treated as hallowed ground, so why should it be OK to recreate, then desecrate these lands in a game?

Maybe they could also be more mindful of the phrases placed in their adverts.

I just can’t imagine a veteran from any war of any era reminiscing about “The glorious mind-blowing freedom of all-out war.” Most can’t even talk about their experiences because they were far too horrific. They wear their poppies and medals on November the 11th and shed silent tears for fallen comrades and friends, while their great-grandsons pick up weapons and fight on, albeit virtually, for the moment at least.