Taken at face value, the Gears of War franchise doesn’t look much like a nuanced meditation on the costs of war. Chainsaw guns, gore, and unrealistically muscular men fighting monsters don’t scream subtlety.
But over at ZAM, AJ Moser looks at what the original Gears of War had to say about trauma and PTSD, and finds that it was a lot smarter than it looked.
Content warning: Linked article contains discussion of violence and suicide.
Things are no less desperate for the central characters. Dire situations lead Dominic Santiago to pull his closest friend out of jail and back to the military. Marcus Fenix was imprisoned for abandoning his post to try and save his father, but after his escape at the start of the first game, he’s back to being a dedicated soldier. Marcus never did save his father, and Dom’s wife has been taken prisoner by the Locust. These are two tortured men searching for any feeling of family, and they find it in the COG.
Dom and Marcus’s pre-established relationship drives the events of the entire series, as the two endure all manner of nightmarish events together. Despite Delta Squad’s penchant for quips and witty banter, they’re fighting a war they don’t know they can win. Players are spared a wealth of tragic monologues explaining each character’s history with the war, and instead witness the most traumatic events with their own eyes.
Moser’s most interesting insights delve deep into spoilers for the Gears of War series. If you’re okay with that, give the full article a read. Even if you’re very familiar with the series, it serves as a good reminder that there was a lot more to the game than the online multiplayer that ate up a so many of our hours.