Gamers are naturally competitive.
Yeah, and I don't know why. Because we're all in this together. This is a fantastic, transcending medium. This is the only medium that isn't voyeuristic. The only one where we can actually get in the shoes of another person, to experience something we may not ever experience in our day-to-day life. And I think that can make us more emphatic, more sympathetic people. That doesn't mean purely entertainment is bad because, frankly, I could use as many Batman games from Rocksteady as they have in them, and I will play them until I die. 

But we felt with war there was so much we weren't saying. So much that we weren't letting ourselves experience. I think we're afraid to feel bad, or we're afraid to think people will feel okay feeling bad when they play a game. But the fact is, as a people and in our cultures, we explore our emotions through our art. Like, movies, books, especially music; we spend so much money making ourselves feel sad or feel angry or feel happy because that's how we're able to safely feel emotions or these thoughts about ourselves without necessarily having it occur in our real life and experiences. 

I think we're ready for that in games. I think it's time to move beyond simply "I'm the hero, I'm the cocky hero," or "I'm a little scared Japanese girl." There's so much more we can do emotionally with games, and I think people are waiting for that. That was a long answer to one question!

It was great though. Describe the overall premise—what is the deal with the sandstorm?
We didn't want Spec Ops to be a global conflict. To be totally honest, we're not making a statement about anything currently going on in the world or anything that's happened in the past 10 years. We're not trying to make a statement about any Middle Eastern conflicts. This is a personal story about people when they are in combat, when they are in war.

So one of the ways to get around doing that is deciding not to tell a global conflict story. You are not fighting another country. You're in another country, but the main enemy that you're facing here are American soldiers, working as a metaphor, for this is this is a personal tale. This is soldiers fighting soldiers, whether it be externally or inside themselves. What you have to do when you face an enemy that is someone you went to save, someone that under any other circumstances you would call a brother in arms. We had to make it more personal, so by taking it out of that global conflict and no wars or anything allowed us to be able to do that.

At the same time, setting it in the Middle East kind of keeps all that stuff in the back of your head. But it's not Baghdad. It's not Afghanistan. It's Dubai, it's a place that's totally peaceful as far as any kind of American action or really any military action at all. 

The quick story overview of the game is that Dubai has been ravaged by these apocalyptic sandstorms. Coming out of Afghanistan—[Colonel] Konrad and the 33rd—Konrad volunteers the battalion instead of going home. He says, "We'll help with the evacuation. We're near. We can do this now." And as they are caravanning the last of the refugees out of the city, they're hit with a massive sandstorm that essentially leaves the world considering them dead. Those who survive it are able to escape back into the city and believe that there is no escape for them.

Six months later, the Department of Defense picks up kind of a torn up distress signal coming out of Dubai that sounds like Konrad. So, not knowing how long ago it was recorded and started broadcasting, they don't know if there's still people alive. They send in a three man team just to go in and look around, just to see what's going on. If there are people alive, they're meant to leave and call in a larger evacuation team. 

This is who you play as: Captain Walker, with your squad Lieutenant Adams and Sergeant Lugo. But when they get in, they find out that not only are there people alive, these people are fighting each other. Dubai has gone into complete chaos and that the 33rd is in trouble. Their lives are in danger. So rather than leaving, Walker and his squad make the choice to go further in and try to find out what's happening, and most importantly, try to find John Konrad and figure out what's going on here and save him in particular. So that's where we start off at the beginning of the game.

I read (on a loading screen) that Konrad and Walker also have a history together?
They have a small history, yes. For Walker, this is a personal mission. Walker was in a mission in Kabul a few years back and, while there, had some interaction with Konrad and ultimately Konrad saved Walker's life. They weren't necessarily friends; this is not a father/son dynamic kind of a thing, but Walker feels that he owes this man a debt. So when it came time for someone to go see if he's alive, Walker in many ways wanted to pay that back by—if Konrad is alive—going in and saving him. Returning the favor. 

So this becomes very personal for him, and in many ways Walker—again, it's about expectation versus reality. Walker sees Konrad one way, he sees this mission one way, and then he gets there and everything is different than his expectations, and he has to readjust himself. He has to try to face the reality, which he wasn't prepared for. 

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