As players of games, or gamers if you will, it seems like we can't go too far on the internet without being bombarded by opinions on video games. Be it Metacritic, gaming websites or social media, everywhere everyone wants their opinion heard and by golly you had better listen to it. But there is an inherent problem with ratings and opinions, they don't apply to everyone as everyone has their taste in games. Sometimes, we are better off ignoring every last opinion and giving a game a shot.

Now, despite my introduction, I am not going to go on a tirade attacking reviews, critics, or anything of the like. Instead, I want to talk about a game where I ignored the critics and opinions of the day and just gave it a shot and the resulting experience, the game I am referring to is ArmA.

Like thousands of others, my first experience with ArmA was when my friends finally convinced me we needed to test our mettle in the open-ended post-apocalyptic backstab-fest that is DayZ. This mod to ArmA II: Operation Arrowhead has spawned its own mods, allowing the survivors of the zombie apocalypse to build bases, assemble gun safes, and a massive array of different shiny bells and whistles. But the more I played DayZ, the more I became fascinated with the underlying canvas on which that game is built, ArmA.

I decided to jump into the single player basic training, learning how to do everything from shooting the various range of real-life military weapons to how to parachute out of the back of a C-130 aircraft and operate night vision goggles in-game. I started learning how to command friendly AI units, but nearly quit as the AI would frequently lack the "I" part of the acronym. Then, I found co-op multiplayer and I was hooked.

At its core, ArmA is a military simulator that places a premium on communication and teamwork while brutally demolishing the Call of Duty and Battlefield accustomed run and gun player.  As I played on-line, I found hours of enjoyment as I linked up with coordinated groups of players as we invaded areas of maps or conducted door-to-door searches for weapons caches or insurgents. On occasion, I would work as a recon member, silently posting myself on top of a nearby hilltop directing close air support to armored targets and directing the invading ground troops into town. Other times, I would be with a six man team HALO jumping ahead of the main forces into a town in the dead of night, knocking out a radio tower. While no game can ever declare itself as entirely real, ArmA is probably as close as I am going to get when it comes to military operations and it can be extremely fun.


Assisting CAS with laser marking


Providing sniper cover for advancing troops

The fun of the gun is expanded too by the creativity of the community that has embraced this game as well as the developers who not only enjoy the modifications developed by the community but they encourage it. With the release of ArmA 3 on Steam, the developers added the ability to add mods and show off custom missions in the Steam Workshop. The missions, built in the game's robust editor, allows creative-types the ability to build story-driven missions. From a recreation of the midnight raid on Osama Bin-Laden's compound (many of these) to scripted close air support and combat air patrol missions allow players to customize their ArmA experience.


Warming up the A-10 for a CAS mission

For those who want more than just the single player experience and co-op ins't enough for them, there are entire groups dedicated to playing ArmA and adding additional degrees of realism to the game. With organized teams, realistic sounding communications tools, organized tactics, and ongoing missions with success and failure contingencies. If this is you, check out the wide array of groups out there to join (Shack Tactical, 15th MEU, 176th Rangers, the list goes on for quite a while). If The Sims is more your thing, try ArmA Life. Prefer horror and zombies, try the DayZ mod or the Mothman mission (this really exists). The possibilities are endless and the creativity is amazing.

Arma isn't for everyone, but there is a lot of it out there to try as the game itself is just the canvas the player can change to make their own experiences. The graphics aren't top notch, the action isn't non-stop nor does it generally have the comedically terrible set-piece moments of Call of Duty or Battlefield, and it can be glitch. But behind the dirty graphics and the charm, and occasional frustration of its glitch nature, ArmA is one heck of a core to build a fun experience on and I am glad I ignored the critics.

If you play ArmA 3 and ever want to co-op a custom mission, let me know, I'm a huge fan of the co-op experience!