It's unlikely you'll find any gaming enthusiast who hasn't killed someone in a 20th Century conflict. Not literally, of course, but it's impossible to overlook the fact that as an industry, video gaming has an obsession with war.
Every year, dozens of war simulators are released, with varying degrees of success. Pick a random month and year - how about February 2008? Frontlines: Fuel of War, The History Channel: Battle for the Pacific, Turning Point: Fall of Liberty, Universe at War: Earth Assault. Given the current state of the Olympic torch ceremony, we might as well include Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games in there as well. In fact, without war as an inspiration, the video game industry would be about as exciting as watching television.
Today is April the 25th, which you will all be aware is the day New Zealand began its long, arduous journey from a former British colony to a fully-fledged country, capable of winning at least one Rugby world cup and populating Australia when their minimum wage exceeds ours. On this day in 1915, a bunch of kids from all over New Zealand landed on a small beach in Turkey, with the intention of killing its inhabitants. For many of them, it would prove to be both their first and last overseas adventure, a footnote in a war that would rip the heart out of a fledgling nation and forever change the commonly-held perspective of war as something to be celebrated.
And yet, celebrate it we do. In most households throughout New Zealand and Australia, electronic equipment manufactured by people we've tried to kill in the past is used to replay great battles over and over again. Out of the ashes of Hiroshima, a glorious electronics industry has sprouted, producing semiconductors that can be programmed to simulate what it is like to drop a nuclear weapon on a city. It would seem that time is a big fan of irony. We commemorate the Gunpowder Plot by setting off explosives, so what's really so bad about playing a bit of Battlefield once in a while?
The fact remains that while current generation video games are extremely good at simulating all manner of weapon characteristics, locations and strategy, and can even get your adrenalin flowing, they largely gloss over the mindless tedium punctuated with sheer terror that real life war entails. It's fair to say that there hasn't been much interest in producing World War One: Trench Foot and Tetanus, or Microsoft Flight Sim: Kamikaze Extreme, so in an industry driven by profit you're hardly likely to come across a truly realistic simulation of war. Convincing a whole generation that landing at Normandy in 1944 consisted primarily of left, right, left left, circle and triangle may seem like a great way to shift a few titles and impress your shareholders, but ultimately it needs to be presented with the understanding that it's simply a game, and you will never understand true war without participating in it. Something that almost every previous generation has gone to war to prevent.
There have been some brilliant titles lately that have mixed education with pixels to effect a fantastic outcome. The Call of Duty series scatters trivia throughout, and you can learn a great deal about the importance of your team in Brothers in Arms. It's only really World War One that is under represented in the video game stakes, particularly with First Person Shooter titles, but that may be set to change with the release of To End All Wars, currently under development. Everyone knows that currently the best World War One game ever made is Wings for the Amiga.
As we sit here nearly a hundred years after that fateful landing at Gallipoli, surrounded by the trappings of an age besotted with instant gratification, mindless consumerism and an insatiable appetite for information, it's easy to distance ourselves from their dreams, from who they were as people. It's easy for us to think that they were of a different age, that what mattered to them was somehow different to us, because they're in black and white and we won't settle for less than high definition. If you were born when they were born, and taught what they were taught, you would believe what they believed. You would also have no real need for any Macintosh product - further proof that we haven't changed a whole lot since then.
There is a risk that by presenting war in a neatly blister-packed and PG13 stamped box we do a real disservice to those who fought for our ability to do so. All we can do now is remember what they did, and if we're going to convince an electronic box to portray it, that it's done without duplicity.
That would be worse than forgetting them.