On May 8, 1945, the Allied troops achieved the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. Shortly before, the leader Adolf Hitler had committed suicide, cornered by his enemies and with hopes of triumph completely dashed. Victory in Europe Day recently commemorated the 75th anniversary, celebrations in which Wargaming, the company behind World of Warships, participated with a naval and virtual parade. In an interview with EL PAÍS, the video game’s executive producer, Philip Molodkovets, recalled this great event, but also wanted to vindicate the importance of the video game as a vehicle for the preservation of history. “Wargaming cooperates with many museums around the world in their effort to recreate these magnificent ships digitally. The aim is to preserve them for the new generations ”, he indicates.
In this sense, the Russian developer has produced various content of a historical nature, such as its documentary series Naval Legends, which has already broadcast more than 50 episodes and which can be viewed for free on YouTube. Hobbyists (or interested) in naval history can also enjoy a new weekly podcast focused on the construction and historical details of the most important warships of the 20th century. “In addition, we are happy to be able to help in the restoration of real ships for museums.” According to the producer, “thanks to the players” they have been able to raise more than $ 300,000, which has been invested in the restoration process of the USS Texas, while $ 50,000 has been used in the conservation of the USS Batfish.
“Video games allow us to make the story much more immersive and engaging,” says Molodkovets. “Before World of Warships, Naval history enthusiasts could watch movies, read books or visit museums, but now they can also have their own digital ship library on their own PC, along with all its historical details. ” Best of all, for the producer, “you can feel like an admiral” by controlling the vessel and making and executing “tactical decisions.”
75 years after Europe’s Victory Day
The victory of the Allies in World War II put an end to a conflict that claimed the lives of millions of people. 75 years after that gruesome period, the celebration for the triumph has taken place in a year marked by the coronavirus epidemic. For the parade, Wargaming featured naval historian James D. Hornfisher, also the author of several best-selling books published by The New York Times. “The event was warmly welcomed by our players and other history fans, who connected to see the most distinguished ships of the Second Great War” and to hear “anecdotes” about those ships “that made history”.
In a press release, Hornfisher declares that he is “very happy” to have been able to participate “in this special parade.” The author, who is also a player of World of Warships, adds that “being able to use video games to teach important aspects of our joint history is impressive.” For this popularizer, “the historical accuracy on the screen was amazing”, as well as the response from the community, which he describes as “warm”.
Although it includes ships from the Second World War, the game goes beyond that conflict, since it covers the entire first half of the 20th century. “It encompasses probably the most exciting and influential period as far as naval design is concerned”, the technological development during this stage was “spectacular”. Philip Molodkovets assures that some of the most famous ships were built during that time: “In addition to changes in quantifiable parameters, such as higher caliber weapons, stronger structures or better engines, the most notable modifications were the implementation of radar, anti-submarine technology and changes motivated by the development of aviation ”.
In a video game like World of Warships, the accurate reproduction of warships is essential. How do they do that? “The process begins with the investigation. Once we decide which boats to recreate, we send a team to the museum or archive to look for plans, historical photos, professional models or any document that we can find useful. ” The 3D modelers then build the digital versions of the ships, a job that takes between 3 and 6 months. “Finally, the ships enter the testing phase”, so they balance their various parameters before launch. “In total, the entire process takes a whole year,” he says.
That the ships are faithful to history does not mean that they are controlled as in real life. “We are focused on recreating the historic ships in the most realistic way possible”, but with the intention that “the experience is immersive and fun to play.” Therefore, it is not a simulator. “To focus the gameplay on the action we had to adjust the range of fire, the reload times and the acceleration of the ships. When it comes to modeling, we try to get closer to the originals ”.
War veterans also play
One of the most curious facts about World of Warships is that more than 40% of the players in the United States are war veterans. “It’s not unusual for veterans or active duty soldiers to play video games,” explains the producer. “Based on your comments, we know that it relaxes them and helps them combat stress, but it also allows them to feel more connected to their peers or other people with similar interests.” Many of them, says Philip Molodkovets, also participate “in other activities”, such as meeting with players. “We currently offer some additional benefits for veterans and serving members of the US Army and Canada, but we look forward to expanding it to other regions” in the future.
Wargaming works closely with the organization Stack Up, which is dedicated to supporting American veterans. They recently launched a fundraising campaign to promote the mental health of these ex-military men, with which they managed to raise more than $ 150,000. Within the framework of Operation Lifeboat, which is the name of the campaign, they added a suicide prevention button within the game, “in order that our players could find help.” By pressing the button, they “connect with Stark Up professionals and volunteers.” Right now, that option is available exclusively in North America and in English, “but veterans from any other country can contact Stack Up directly.”
World of Warships is a title under the model free-to-play, that is, it can be downloaded and played for free, but it has microtransactions. The title turns five this September and will continue to encapsulate naval history with its reproduction of battles in the ocean, a relentless fight against enemy vessels and against the capricious waters of the sea.