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Call of Duty's History Lessons

Mike Musgrove

Hank Keirsey wants you to know that he's not a videogame guy.

"I was prepared to hate these guys, these little squirrels who make videogames," said Keirsey, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who has for the last few years served as a consultant on all of the versions of the popular Call of Duty videogame franchise.

Keirsey came by the Post the other day on the eve of the launch of the latest entry in that shoot-em-up series, which has often used real-world battles from U.S. military history as source material. I think he tried to break my hand with his handshake.

Keirsey said he believes that the games are a way to reach a generation of young people who would never otherwise crack open a book about World War II history. Most people don't know about the Battle of Peleliu, he thinks, but if the previous Call of Duty games are any indicator, there might soon be a surge of interest in books about the battles that are shown in the latest game, called World At War.

"Its going to be a tribute to [the] guys who fought in that conflict," he said.

Much of his input over the years, Keirsey said, has involved reducing each game's story dialogue down to "concise grunting noises." In early drafts, you see, the game's writers tend to have the soldiers communicate through somewhat unrealistic "California valley girl" language, in Keirsey's opinion. ("'I think I'll take that bridge! That'll be so good!' Nobody talks like that.")

While Keirsey said he has come to admire the work ethic of those who work in videogames, he still hasn't played all that many, aside from the ones he has personally consulted on.

"I only have so much time in my life," he said.

By Mike Musgrove  |  November 12, 2008; 8:00 AM ET  | Category:  Mike Musgrove
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The book this post points to at Amazon, The Old Breed, is one of the finest personal histories of WW II. The author experienced the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa as a Marine private who was part of a 60mm mortar team. The reality of the fighting in the Pacific in two of the bloodiest battles is revealed from someone who was eyeball-to-eyeball with death daily. The author was one of the true unsung heroes of the war who did his job and survived to tell about it. I highly recommend the book.

Posted by: wbailey60 | November 13, 2008 11:19 AM

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