A peek at my inventory of games would quickly reveal that I am a fan of First Person Shooters (FPS). It's not ALL I play, but it is definitely the majority of what I play. Right now I am devoting most of my time to Battlefield Bad Company 2 (Single Player).

I don't know the name of the map I'm on (I'm too lazy to look it up - Heavy Metal maybe?)...but it's the one where you blow a bunch of stuff up while driving the tanks, you get to a river and set out on foot. You have to use your laser designator to paint a bunch of bad guys on the roofs of buildings and then you start up this hill towards this massive city.

Well, that's kind of the topic of this blog, a rant if you will...because Bad Company 2 sure isn't the only one that does what I'm about to gripe about...

But where in the world are all the civilians?!?

As I run from building to building, clearing rooms and smashing doors down...either the room is empty or it's occupied by an enemy who is very interested in causing me pain. There's no hesitation or delay in identifying contacts as freind or foe because they're always bad guys.

Okay. Okay. In all fairness, "always" is an absolute statement and I don't believe in absolutes. There are some games that might (keyword might) throw in a few token non-combatants. I know Modern Warfare 2 has a few of the Special Operations missions where you're not supposed to shoot the friendlies. And there are other games. Far Cry 2 didn't seem to have too many - I think they played a small part in the game. Crysis...not so much. Heck, even the old Ghost Recon had a map or two where the civilians would come running out at the least opportune time and test your itchy trigger finger. And of course Counterstrike has the whole hostage rescue mission. I know ARMA II is supposed to be one of the most realistic military shooters out right now, I'm wondering if they have civilians and how they handle it. Perhaps I should check that game out (and wondering why I haven't yet).

Those are all well and good...but that pales in comparison what it would really be like. I recall the training leading up to my deployment to Iraq, our convoy had to drive through this populated village (fake) and try and identify the good guys from the bad guys. The problem is, they could all be bad guys. You just don't know. So the point of the exercise was to not shoot everyone because they made you nervous, rather, have a little patience and try and figure out which ones were acting suspiciously and why. When I finally deployed, it became very clear why there is such emphasis put on indentifying real threats compared to people who just make you nervous. Heck, they all made me nervous...I'm kind of twitchy.

Alas...that was the real world though and this is the video game world...

I used to tell myself during the era of not so powerful gaming machines that the developers couldn't include a bunch of extra people (collateral damage if you will) running around because it would impact the smoothness of the game. But in this day and age with the technology we have available, I don't think this is the reason.

Many of the scenarios and locations depicted in First Person Shooters would be crawling with civilians. I think adding them not only makes the game more realistic, but it also adds a certain amount of worry and nervousness as you open up each door and are faced with a shoot or don't shoot (or shoot and live with the consequences) situation.

I think it would help with the whole point and click mentality that lends to the "shoot everything that moves" attitude we've grown accustomed to. The "Ready Aim Fire" principle is more of just a "Fire" attitude.

Adding to the element of uncertainty...if you kill too many innocent friendlys, then some of the civilians potentially become enemy sympathizers. Turn your back on them for a second and next thing you know they're pulling an AK-47 out from underneath little Achmed's crib and coming after you. Ah, didn't see that coming, now did you?

I'll even take it one step further...how about adding non-combatants to the multiplayer component of First Person Shooters? Not like Counterstrike where they kind of mill about aimlessly. I'm talking during free for all or deathmatch rounds.

Civilians just randomly running around or hiding. Shooting non-combatants causes you to lose points. Lose too many points and your team loses. Shooting non-combatants for fun and getting a huge negative score could get you booted from the match. The civilians could have various reactions to gun fire. From sitting in the corner crying like a baby to running around in a panic like someone set their hair on fire, or even running up to you pulling on your sleeve while begging for your mercy.

(This could be a mode or an option selectable by the host, which would probably be fairly easy to incorporate into a game.)

Well, they always say be careful what you ask for because you just might get it. I've already said I get kind of twitchy...I might find myself getting booted every round.

Anyway...just a thought...