Jason over at The Warsculptor wrote a blog post in response to a conversation on Twitter that he and I had trying to convince him to give other game systems a pop.
Entitled ‘Why I’m Narrow Minded‘ Jason talks about his predisposition for the lone warrior triumphing over adversity. It’s an interesting point of view and one I partially share. It’s well documented that I love the Halo games and this is partly down to the epically heroic deeds of the Master Chief. And like Jason I like the Space Marines because each one can face down dozens of lesser foes and prevail. And if you’ve played the Space Marine video game that is very much the case.
However, I was thinking about this and although a Space Marine is a fearsome foe, it is the brotherhood that makes them so strong. Individually they are mighty, together they are unstoppable. They are self-sufficient killers but self-sufficient killers working in concert, supporting one another is a waking hell for their enemies. There is no shortage of heroic acts committed by the individual on the battlefield and there’s something to be said for nobility in sacrifice, however those sacrifices are a waste of life if their battle brothers aren’t there to take advantage of it. Even the Master Chief doesn’t act alone. Cortana (a ship AI if you’re unfamiliar), and a variety of un-augmented humans help the Chief, usually at tremendous personal sacrifice. Yes the Chief wins the day; standing against impossible odds alone, but he couldn’t have got there without help.
Similarly, the role of a leader is a solitary one. Burdened with the weight of command it takes extraordinary souls to lead, even greater ones to keep those under them alive. Indeed there is no greater torment for a leader to order men to their deaths. But it is done so in the hope that it will save lives and defeat the enemy. There is no lonelier role. Especially at the helm of a space faring ship of war.
I grew up on a diet of Transformers, Thundercats and a handful of other 80’s cartoons that drummed into me, over and over again, that working as a team, combined with inspired leadership wins the day. And you always always do the right thing, even if it means making the tough decision. Needless to say my idealism and the real world come into conflict on a regular basis.
But the point is that whereas Jason looks to the lone warrior I look to the fleets of brave men and women on board mighty space vessels and the few that have the mettle to command them. Those few who will sail their vessel into the guns of the enemy knowing they might never return but knowing if they don’t their sacrifice will save the lives of their fellow servicemen. The enormity of that responsibility humbles me, especially as there are people in military’s all over the world that have to make those decisions far too often and with very real consequences.
Even the humble Rhino has a hero at the wheel. A Space Marine that drives into enemy fire to transport or even rescue his battle brothers and will do so no matter the personal cost. Those Space Marine players out there know that Rhino’s are lucky to make the end of a game.
I completely see Jason’s point, I actually share it to a degree but I think where he sees spaceships with hordes of faceless crew I see a ship full of heroes, all of them doing what they must to win the day. All of them put their faith in their ship, their comrades and their commanding office to see them through to the dawn. And those commanding officers have to have faith in their crew that they will perform admirably during the hellstorm that is space warfare. And, I imagine, no small amount of faith being put in the almighty for good measure. The Gothic War novels by Gordon Rennie do an incredibly job of capturing space battles in the 41st Millennium and capturing the humanity amongst the enormity of the endeavour.
No matter what a soldier’s role they are all heroes for they do their duty and may even make the ultimate sacrifice in the process. And all to allow that Lone Warrior to commit an extraordinary act that wins the day.