When camera-maestro Justin Clouse and I were invited to cover a friendly paintball war between Gears of War developers Epic Games and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six makers Red Storm Entertainment, there were two thoughts on my mind (three thoughts if you count "wheeeee, paintball!" as one of them): "Does a developer's experience making shooter games carry over into real life?" and "Boy, I picked the wrong day to wear my field reporter coat."
Sweltering North Carolinian temperature aside, I figured the first question was legitimate enough. That's not to say that the skills involved in making (and playing) a game will necessarily apply to the real world, but still couldn't help but wonder. After all, these people spend literally years of their lives developing the games - might they internalize a bit of their world's warfare?
Epic makes Unreal Tournament and Gears of War, two sci-fi shooters that aren't so much "realistic" as they are "fun." On the other end of the spectrum were the Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six games from Red Storm - more down-to-earth, tactical games inspired by real-life military action. Would the realistic military tactics of Red Storm give them an advantage over the cover-based, actively-reloading Epic forces? Would people be disqualified for curbstomping their opponents? (Probably.)
The first match of the day was an Epic-only affair - Red Storm was still waiting in line to get the passes - on the Fort map (that's just one Fort, not 2Fort). It was a largely open field dominated by the eponymous fort in the center, dotted with cover like upended cars, little shacks and overgrown ditches. This brief skirmish was over quickly, and but the stage was soon set for another game, this time between Epic and Red Storm proper.
As before, it was on the Fort field - only this time, it would be a game of capture the flag with a single flag in the middle which was to be retrieved and brought back to your team's "respawn" point. The first game went to Red Storm, and following a switch of sides, the second game went to Epic after a daring flag grab under fire. The tie-breaking third, however, once more went to Red Storm - in part due to a suicidal flag rush after one of their members realized that the respawns meant you could just dash for the flag, and in part due to the fact that whoever captured the Fort first had a huge advantage. Map imbalance indeed.
The next game was set on Assault, which was a very close-range map made of two identical forts facing each other at a short distance. In contrast to the previous match, this was a straight-out deathmatch - last team standing won. After some very fast-paced, close-range fighting (during which I made excellent use of the riot shield loaned to me by Epic), the match was once again decided in favor of Red Storm.
Could there be some merit to this tactical shooter thing, after all?