Metal Gear Solid, Deus Ex, Titanfall, Crysis, Call of Duty: Black Ops III. All of these games have something common: they predict the shape of warfare in the future.
While Fallout reiterates in every version that ‘war never changes,’ a wrinkled, old, nicotine-addicted Solid Snake in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of Patriots tells the players the exact opposite. ‘War, war has changed,’ he says.
Bar nuclear catastrophe that indeed leads us to Feral Ghoul infested lands and terrifying chameleons that have mutated into post-apocalyptic apex predators, it seems that war will indeed change.
The likes of Metal Gear Solid, Titanfall, and Crysis aren’t too far from predicting the future correctly, actually. While augmented humans, giant mechs, and nano-controlled warfare may seem like science fiction, what the modern military powers of the world are forecasting in the next 35 years or so is actually very similar to the depictions in the said videogames.
A workshop held by the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) attempted to estimate what war would look like in 2050, and it seems that Hideo Kojima, Crytek, Treyarch, and Eidos Interactive weren’t too far off in their predictions of what war could look like in the future.
The report shared in this tweet by Andy Chaisiri is quite startling, or maybe not so for those who find themselves obsessed with sci-fi movies and video-games. There’s no prediction of a Zombie Apocalypse (go away, DayZ fans), but there’s certainly a lot that video-gamers can relate to.
The first and most eye-catching is the concept of Augmented Humans. The report from ARL reads:
“The battlefield of the future will be populated by fewer humans, but these humans would be physically and mentally augmented with enhanced capabilities that improve their ability to sense their environment, make sense of their environment.”
Prophet from Crysis approves, as do all the protagonists from the Deus Ex franchise. The report backs it up by suggested that this prediction is a result of logical extrapolation from a number of current trends. According to the ARL, there are a growing number of ‘human capability enhancers’ to help those who have suffered various injuries and disabilities.
The report also highlights that such ‘superhuman’ soldiers will likely be high-value targets for enemies, and priority will be given to neutralizing them instead of the other ‘normal’ humans on the battlefield.
It’s not limited just to enhanced humans though. There’s also the concept of “Automated Decision Making, and Autonomous Processes.” We’re talking about stuff similar to the Patriot system in Metal Gear Solid 4, and even Icarus and Daedalus (who ultimately combine to form the all-knowing Helios) in the original Deus Ex game.
The argument used for this prediction is that by 2050, humans will simply be unable to keep up with the information flow and the pace of the battle.
Then there are things like ‘Micro-targeting’ discussed in the report as well. By micro-targeting, ARL doesn’t mean identifying and engaging only buildings and moving vehicles, but targeting key individuals. This could be kinetic engagement as well as cyber neutralization. A good example of the latter is Watch Dogs, in which protagonist Aiden uses technology to hack and target specific individuals.
There are other aspects discussed as well, such as a generalized overall analysis of possible major aspects of a tactical battlefield of 2050. The report suggests that the battlefield will be characterized by the likes of Ubiquitous robots, Swarms and teams, Dynamic hacking and spoofing, superhumans, directed-energy weapons (the many laser and plasma weapons we adore), fore fields (Halo rings a bell!), and reliable power sources (hopefully Fusion Cores for some badass Power Armor).
Treyarch had already stated that they carried out extensive military research to create Black Ops III, and that they believe that their depictions of the terrifying future warfare weren’t far off from what many military experts predict.
Of course, most of us laughed at them at believed it was merely a statement made to market the game further (which it probably was), but there in context of the shared ARL report, there does seem to be some accuracy in how video-games are depicting warfare a few decades from now.
So, perhaps those of us who played these games and lived to see the day their predictions come true will quote Solid Snake in the voice of David Hayter, “War, war has changed.”