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Cannon Fodder – Recruits (Richard Joseph)

November 12, 2009

November 11 is Memorial Day. This holiday goes back to the end of World War I, in which the cease fire was to occur on November 11 at 11 AM. Poppies are often worn today as a symbol of remembrance for those lost in war, a direct reference to the World War I poem, “In Flanders Fields“. One game that seems to do a decent job of reminding us of the cost of war is Cannon Fodder (Amiga, 1993), which is why I chose the “Recruitment Screen” theme as today’s Daily.

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Cannon Fodder – Recruits (Amiga, 1993)

“Recruits”, or “Recruitment Music” plays in the recruitment screen between levels. The track was composed by Richard Joseph, who died of lung cancer in 2007. The song has a calming effect, making us reflect on what is actually going on here. The rock guitar and trumpets give a sense of gravitas and loss. It sort of gives a feeling that this is an everyday drudge, something inevitable resulting from people’s inability to learn from their mistakes. The song is played using mods, or modulated audio sound libraries, allowing the Amiga to have a better sound than most other computers, which used midi or square waves.

The recruitment screen displays dozens of civilians lining up before the recruitment office for their chance at the war. In the background is a green hill with poppies growing by the road. As soldiers in the player’s platoon die, gravestones with their names on them appear on the hill; the higher the soldier’s ranking, the larger the tombstone. Eventually, the hill can be completely full of tombstones. When a soldier dies, a general opens the door to let the next person in line take his place. The civilians appear oblivious to the gravestones on the hill, and seem to blindly follow each other like Lemmings, though they certainly have enough time to contemplate it. The screen also displays a facetious scoreboard with ‘Home’ and ‘Away’ listing the number of kills on both sides. All of this is gradually revealed to the player as he plays the game. The song helps us think about what is actually going on here in-between the battles as we see the results of our actions in-game.

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Cannon Fodder received negative comments from the press and the British Foreign Legion regarding the use of poppy imagery. The British Armed Forces apparently saw it as either a violation of their ‘copyright’ on the use of the poppy or its content as an insult to the millions of servicemen and women who died. Cannon Fodder is actually one of the few games to comment on the cost of war, though it does so through the vehicle of a wargame. The individual soldiers have little value in and of themselves, and raw recruits in particular act primarily as cannon fodder for the enemy.

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