The Power of Fiction
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Categories: Modern, Not an expert

The Power of Fiction

This passage is so extraordinary that I want to quote it for later use even if I don’t have the words in me to say anything about it. It was published shortly before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Also in the command center: (Ukrainian army battalion commander) Oleksander’s sword and crossbow — a nod to his code name, Witcher, the protagonist in a fantasy novel series by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. The Witcher is a hulking man of supernatural ability who uses his powers to slay monsters and mythical beasts.

After lunch, (29 year old Ukrainian Army corporal) Vanya settled onto his bunk bed and flipped open his computer. He slipped on headphones and fired up the next part of his daily routine, one that he considers vital to improving his craft. It was time to play “Call of Duty.”

The first-person-shooter video game was how he learned the difference between the basic configuration of an AK-47 rifle and an improved one. It showed him the attachments a firearm could have, such as a scope.

“As for my vision of what a fighter should be, it really derives from gaming,” he said. “Earlier, we only used to see the Soviet army. We didn’t have games where we could see, for instance, the Special Forces of the U.S.”

“But now we see all that through a video game,” he added. “I don’t want to be a Soviet moron. I want to be a proper fighter.”

Isabelle Khurshudyan, Michael Robinson Chavez, and Whitney Shefte, “In Ukraine’s Trenches: Soviet Relics, Video Games, and Hope for More Western Weapons,” The Washington Post, 15 February 2022

Edit 2022-11-30: from a chat in the Before Times with Jeff Sypeck, see Irving A. Leonard, Books of the Brave: Being an Account of Books and of Men in the Spanish Conquest and Settlement of the Sixteenth-Century New World (University of California Press, 1992) on conquistadors’ love for romances such as Amadis of Gaul.

Edit 2023-03-25: see also Mika Mäkeläinen, “Finnish soldiers: Ukraine needs better training to win,” Yle News, 2023.02.28 (EN) (FI)

After a year of war in Ukraine, with no decisive Russian breakthrough, many western observers believe in a Ukrainian victory.

That’s futile hope, according to one senior Finnish officer who has been in Ukraine since April, observing the war.

The level of competence of the Ukrainian military is embarrassingly low, according to the officer, and he said the more he sees of it, the worse he thinks it is.

“Really poor leadership, bad tactical and combat skills. They have taken their examples mainly from video games and movies,” the officer claimed.

(nb. the summary of the interviewee contains some blatant falsehoods such as ‘Russia also withdrew from the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson with almost no resistance.’ (some Russian units from the pre-war military died in place north of Kherson) so reader beware)

Edit 2023-08-28: added a ‘power of fiction’ tag

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1 thought on “The Power of Fiction

  1. More Power of Fiction – Book and Sword says:

    […] past I have talked about how civilians in Syria see themselves as peasants in Game of Thrones, and soldiers in Ukraine want to be as excellent as characters in first-person shooter Call of Duty. This year I want to […]

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