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War's outcome could change in video game

January 02, 2003|by TIM ROWLAND

I can't wait for the television ads. A cartoon stylized Gen. "Fightin'" Joe Hooker points a finger and roars: You think you steppin' out on MY cornfield? AAARRRRRGH!!"

Then, with an oversized fist, he starts pummeling cartoon Confederates into a pulp as points start adding up over his head.

Yes, the Battle of Antietam video game is coming to a computer store near you.

Really. "Gods and Generals: The Game."

According to The Herald-Mail, "In a PC computer game, players decide whether they want to be Union or Confederate soldiers and then fight in battles, including Antietam ..."

The game "is not bloody, like some fighting games, but is instead classy."

That's good. After all, it was such a classy war.

The game can be ordered for $19.95 at the web site http://www.anivision.com/gng/ and promises "Fast paced, run and gun action - charging attacks, sniper missions, line engagements, river crossings, urban battles, and cannon battles."

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Nothing like a good river crossing to get the juices flowing.

You sort of wish you could be privy to the pure astonishment of, say, A.P. Hill if he had known that 140 years later a caricature of himself would be bounding along a video screen to the tune of electronic blings and bleeps from Harpers Ferry to save the day.

Beautiful. Kill General Mansfield and get the golden key to unlock Dunker Church and win 100 more Minie balls. Uh-oh, your powder got wet crossing Antietam Creek, lose 1,000 points.

Kids will be calling each other on the phone: "Hey Justin, I got up to Level 7 in Bloody Lane, but I can't figure out how to breach the ridge in the face of a Union assault. Should I charge or fall back and try to find the magic musket?"

I suppose if it teaches history it's a good thing, and heaven knows about the only way to get a teen interested in anything is to make a video game of it.

Personally, I'm surprised they don't have a video game to get kids interested in church: Billy Graham's "Walls of Jericho." After 2,000 Arc of the Covenant points you get to blast rock music, la Manuel Noriega, at the walls until they fall down. "It's freakin' wild, Justin; get to Level 5 and the sun actually stands still. Man, what mazo computer dude thought of that one?"

You just wonder whether the history the kids will be learning will border on accurate: "I really don't understand the strategy of General Burnside. If he had just hit hyperspace, he could have avoided the Georgia brigade altogether."

Of course, probably any historic context among young people today could be seen as a win. If we're to believe all those fretting Newsweek surveys, 68 percent of high school seniors currently think the Civil War was fought between North and South Dakota over the issue of tourism.

Not that I have any delusion whatsoever that kids are going to be the main purchasers of the Civil War video game. Not to stereotype or anything, but I think we can all agree that 99.9999 percent of the players will be Southern partisans still looking for a way that history can plausibly be reversed.

I think it was historian Shelby Foote who said that Pickett's unfortunate charge at Gettysburg was the turning point of every Southerner's life, because up until that moment the Confederates were still perceived as having a reasonable chance at victory.

But now, with a video game, who knows. Through the magic of semiconductors, perhaps a way can still be discovered to win Antietam outright, march on Washington and reverse the nearly century-and-a-half of bitter history which has brought us such pestilence as the ACLU, fluoridated water and federal sewer grants.

Which obviously would set the stage for "Evils of Reconstruction: The Game."

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