On my flight to Los Angeles for E3 I watched a documentary called The Fog Of War. The documentary focuses on Robert S. McNamara, the US Secretary of Defense during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the early stages of Vietnam War. One of his quotes stayed with me: "[a]ny military commander who is honest with himself, or with those he's speaking to, will admit that he has made mistakes in the application of military power. He's killed people unnecessarily — his own troops or other troops — through mistakes, through errors of judgment. A hundred, or thousands, or tens of thousands, maybe even a hundred thousand. But, he hasn't destroyed nations."
I am playing Company of Heroes 2. Thank God it's just a video game.
My experiences with RTS games are limited. I've played a few, gotten confused and just moved onto other things. At this point I am playing an RTS in front of one of the human beings who helped build it. It's embarrassing.
I am applying the full weight of military power with wild abandon. Like a dog wearing human pants I have no idea what I am doing. I am pressing buttons, people are dying. They are dying unnecessarily. I am trying to make decisions based on my limited understanding of the controls, and the situation I have found myself in. I guess this is what they call the 'fog of war'.
The Fog of War. There's a mechanic in Company of Heroes 2 named after that phrase. The mechanic is one that allows you see only what you can see in relation to the positioning of your troops. In most RTS games you are given an overhead perspective of the battlefield that demists as you advance, but in Company of Heroes 2 you are limited to what your troops can see.
But the phrase Fog of War really refers to a sense of confusion, or the limitations of knowledge.
"We know we make mistakes," explained MacNamara. "I don't know any military commander, who is honest, who would say he has not made a mistake. There's a wonderful phrase: 'the fog of war.' What "the fog of war" means is: war is so complex it's beyond the ability of the human mind to comprehend all the variables. Our judgment, our understanding, are not adequate. And we kill people unnecessarily.
We kill people unnecessarily. My guide through my Company of Heroes 2 claims it is almost impossible to lose the mission I am playing, but I'm doing a decent enough job of attempting to do the impossible. I scramble through. Only two men survive. The rest are dead. Any military commander worth their salt will admit he has made mistakes. I have made many. Too many. But I haven't destroyed nations, just my own self-esteem.