CQB: What Can Video Games Teach Us

January 12, 2024  
Categories: Op-Eds

TL/DR: The maps of Warzone funnel players into primarily using the Assault Rifle class of weapons through their versatility. This illustrates how environment drives gear selection. Rainbow Six Siege, on the other hand, rewards every small advantage taken while also building a gameplay loop out of what we don’t want to see in CQB training.

What Video Games Can Teach Us About Gear Selection and Tactical Movement

By Forrest Cooper

Competition affects behavior and choice.

There is no shortage of criticism saying that Call of Duty isn’t real life, but that is not to say we can’t learn something of value for real life. The hyper-real, hyper-stimulation of video games like Call of Duty Warzone and Rainbow Six Siege can reveal much about the choices made by people in a malleable and competitive environment.

Verdansk Call of Duty map

Call of Duty Warzone / Activision. The original map of Call of Duty Warzone scattered smaller maps from the franchise across a large battlefield. Some of them fit naturally, whereas others felt a little out of place. However, embedded in the surrounding Verdansk, each element played differently, requiring players to re-evaluate their gear selection choices.

We can mimic an adversarial environment by pitting teams of players against each other in games like Warzone and Siege modes. We can then see how map design directs player strategy and skill focus.

On its face, the objective of Warzone is simple: be either the last player or the last team to survive. As players with limited options for returning to the match eliminate each other, the Battle Royale genre has defined itself by high-risk, high-reward gameplay. A shrinking map eventually forced all remaining players into a final area, so nowhere on the map could be permanently occupied.

CQB tactics in Rainbow Six Siege.

Game: Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege. This image demonstrates how not all long narrow sightlines are simply hallways. From this point, the player can see into 4 different rooms, each a different avenue of approach for opposing players.

At the same time, Rainbow Six Siege also incorporates a high-risk, high-reward playstyle, this time as teams of players navigate tight, sometimes claustrophobia-inducing maps further complicated by destructible and penetrable walls. The unforgiving gameplay of Siege focuses on outwitting and outmaneuvering opponents in objective-based matches, where the difference between winning and losing a gunfight is measured in hundredths of a second.

CQB tactics being utilized by a player behind partial cover.

Game: Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege. Although the destructibility of the environment must balance realism with in-game mechanisms, it allows for some creative problem-solving while reminding the player that no place is truly safe.

While many video games market references to real-life counterparts as a way to paint their experience as realistic, it is the gameplay loop of each that determines whether the product succeeds or fails. In games where players have some control over the in-game equipment they can use, this requires balancing. Make one weapon overpowered, and you risk breaking the game, ruining the user’s experience.

The original map of Warzone, set in a fictional Pseudo-Eastern European landscape, included various memorable set pieces, from a massive dam to urban and sub-urban sprawls to an airport where players got to live out everyone’s fantasy of crawling down the luggage conveyor. Open fields, rolling hills, rubble, and vegetation filled the space between these distinct locations. At times, players are forced to use what weapons they find in the map, but when given a choice, players tend to prioritize utility over appearance.

As players were faced with more diverse terrain, they sought after weapons that could be used in both the confined areas and open spaces approaching them. This drove them to categorize some tools as having specific use cases, such as approaching a building or maneuvering through a facility, but when given the choice between an extremely powerful but limited tool, such as a sniper rifle or a shotgun, and something that could be effective as they traversed the map, they typically chose the latter. Ultimately the map dictated what tools would be used, and while we like to say plucky phrases like “mission dictates gear” in the real world, this fictional and repeatable scenario demonstrated the principle.

Tom Clancy Rainbow Six Siege game play

Game: Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege. It’s much easier to build a multi-level in-game map than a fully functional multi-level shoot house.

Rainbow Six Siege could be described as a shoot house simulator and is well aware of it. Each map represents some form of urban environment, regularly confining players to a single building or even a section of one. By giving players the ability to “lean” or peek, the already tight confines of each map can be better used to gain a sightline advantage over opponents.

Gaming it.

When training in a real-world shoot house, students are criticized when they “game” the scenario by assuming where they expect targets to be. In an ideal world, the layout of a training shoot house would change after each iteration, forcing the students to treat each room as if it were foreign to them, making it impossible to cheat themselves out of developing vital maneuvers and habits by simply going through the motions after memorizing the building. In contrast, Rainbow Six Siege players who memorize the maps gain an advantage so distinct that it separates casual from professional competitors.

Player aiming at a spot on a wall.

Not only can you get shot through a wall, but sometimes that’s the enemy’s best strategy.

It is this contrast that helps teach.

Where gamers get to take advantage of playing in the same arena time and time again, professionals who train in CQB tactics do not necessarily get to choose where they operate. Instead, if they break down each element of an urban environment into smaller pieces, such as approaching a door or turning a corner, they can hone deliberate movements into skills that give them a vital edge.

Take, for example, how one crosses a threshold.

In Siege, there is no mechanism that punishes players for how they move through a doorway. Yet considering that a player can be eliminated in less time than it takes to aim their weapon, every opportunity to acquire their target faster can have a determining effect on the outcome.

By approaching the corner or doorway with the weapon already aimed, they gain an advantage over a player who is waiting to see an opponent before reacting to that stimulation. The same goes for urban movement and on the competition field.

Player utilizing CQB a shelf as a hiding spot.

Game: Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege. The semi-furnished maps allow for plenty of hiding places that punish players for not clearing their corners.

In both the shoot house and on the competition field, shooters who develop skills that shave fractions of a second off their time gain advantages over those who simply react to the stage. A competition shooter who has their sights aligned as they come to a halt at a shooting position will have a time advantage over the person who moves to where they’re going to shoot and, only after in place, raises their firearm reacting to the targets they see them.

In a shoot house or training scenarios, students who proactively search for targets must balance anticipating their location with remaining aware of their surroundings. You don’t have to treat a bathroom the same way you approach a hallway, but time is wasted in training if the shooter is neither mindful of what they are searching for or practicing gaining an advantage.

In both real life and in Rainbow Six Siege, the best of the best approach a doorway with their weapon raised if they suspect a threat to be on the other side.

In Warzone, players prioritize weapons effective across multiple types of environments, reserving personal customization to secondary firearms. In Siege, skilled players break down gameplay elements into specific movements, such as peeking doors or pre-aiming before crossing a threshold, all while constantly searching for enemy players.

Mistaking real life for a video game tends to be a self-correcting error with both comical and tragic consequences. Yet that does not get in the way of what video games can teach us about human behavior by isolating factors within the game. Where players incorporate more personal expression in the equipment they use while playing the arcade-style multiplayer mode of Call of Duty, in Warzone, they will forgo appearances for utility when the stakes are higher.

Don’t get carried away, however, and get caught one-upping the bigger, more dangerous scenario simply to justify how practical your new purchase really is.

In games like Rainbow Six Siege, the fiction lies in being able to memorize the maps, which helps clarify the correct mindset for students in the shoot house. However, in the game and in real life, developing proactive habits and approaches to identifiable danger zones opens up the mental capacity for anticipating and addressing threats.

Don’t miss the forest through the trees, and don’t create a training scar that missed the threat in the danger area.

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