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The precursors to humans, fighting over resources.
Still from the opening scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey, showing earlier humans using tools to fight for resources.

As a descendant of hunter-gatherers, I too like to let projectiles fly and gather shiny things in video game streams of life.

The first game I wrote about was a demo for Bohemia Interactive’s crawling and running soldier simulator, 2001’s Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis.

The movement of your avatar and that careening jeep, the distances in the landscape, challenging difficulty, and the loud sound design made that demo feel different from other 3D games. You didn’t play a hero, but a simulated boots-on-the-ground grunting grunt, trying to survive.

I bought the game from a shop on Via degli Scipioni near the Vatican in Rome, and finished it, stopping the missiles from being launched in the end, after various missions, including one of the tensest of any video game I’ve played.

You started at the edge of a forest and needed to immediately run, zigzagging between trees, bullets from many angry digital men chasing you cracking by, then hiding in a bush in a field while an APC came searching for you at the other side of the forest, and finally, after many tries, getting away. Surviving.

A zombie wearing a suit.
Later I played lots of Arma 2, especially its DayZ mod, the original PvPvE apocalyptic survival experience.

These days, the simulation of modern warfare often feels too close to reality for me, and I prefer spending time in future, fantasy, and more abstract worlds.

When I do play Arma it is mainly cooperatively with other players in human intelligence vs artificial intelligence, or PvE game modes. Arma is an excellent giant digital space to spend time together and exercise our primal instincts.

When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European or a PC or Sony or Microsoft or Nintendo devotee, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of humankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a person who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial video game system; this person is concerned with the total understanding of humankind.

—Jiddu Krishnamurti, Freedom From the Known, Chapter 6. Bolded word changes by Ed.

Playing Arma 3 with friends.
Screenshot from an Arma Antistasi session with friends.

Arma has extensive modding support, which means players can change the game, even making completely new gameplay modes. This is something other developers like Ubisoft should take note of.

The whole Battle Royale genre of video games, for instance, was born in an Arma mod by Brendan Greene, which later became PUBG, Warzone, and so on.

Here are the best Arma mods I’ve played:

Arma 4 is coming, with the aptly-named Reforger a technology bridge to connect the past to the future of the series.

In the meantime we’re starting a new cooperative Arma Antistasi campaign on the Malden map, and I’m listing the streams from my point of view of the action on the sidebox above.

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