Andy McNab: “arguments about games inducing violence are a load of nonsense”

Thursday, 27th October 2011 15:49 GMT By Stace Harman

Speaking to the Guardian games blog, Andy McNab has described what drew him to advise Dice on Battlefield 3 – “the story” – and which bits reminded him of genuine missions – “the urban stuff”.

McNab is no stranger to modern warfare in the real-world and after seeing what EA was trying to achieve with Battlefield 3 he was happy work with them on a consultancy basis.

“Normally, when you’re approached by a games company, they just want you to jump on at the end as a marketing tool, or do a bit of motion capture,” explained the ex-SAS soldier. “But when the call came from EA Dice, I went out to Stockholm and the guys there just seemed to get it – they wanted to progress the story-side. You’ve got to have a lot more than just shooting in games now, you’ve got to have that sense of engagement.”

McNab explained how he spent time with the designers and artists looking at aesthetic details such as correct gun use and how operations vary between urban and desert environments. He also worked with the game’s stuntmen and actors, as well as advising the writers on correct use of language.

“Military speak is very progressive and positive,” explained McNab. “No one says, ‘Well, we’ll try to get to X by 9am’, it’s all about you will do this, I will do that, this will happen. The point of that is, if you start with a moment of doubt, when things get worse, doubt becomes failure. It’s got to be positive from the start. And it’s all about brevity – military language is not as formal as we think it is.”

As for those that worry about the effects of gamers partaking in digitised war games and the potential of games to trivialise armed conflict, McNab was dismissive.

“People have always been fascinated by war – games are just another medium for that. There have been war films since the beginning of cinema – you could go along to the Saturday morning pictures and watch John Wayne kill 100 Japanese soldiers in 10 minutes. It’s all part of the same thing.

“And the big arguments about games inducing violence – they’re a load of nonsense; violence has always been there. And possibly, the reason the crime rate is declining in the US is that people are now staying in and exploring violence through games rather than going out and beating people up.”

The full interview can be read over on the Guardian games blog.

Battlefield 3 launched in the US earlier this week and launches tomorrow in PAL territories on PC, 360 and PS3,



  1. YoungZer0

    I wonder, did he also write some of the dialogs? I thought some of the russian dialogs were very russian.

    I’m just concerned since i read that he’d release a book about the russian side of the story.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. DSB

    If you’re going to read an Andy McNab book, make it Bravo Two Zero. And even then you should also check out the books that reveal the pretty considerable inconsistencies he put in there.

    Not that it isn’t impressive to’ve been captured and tortured by iraqis, but that’s kinda the problem, why make shit up when you already have a great story?

    Former SAS, yes. Great writer, no.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. themadjock

    @2 Agreed or just read Chris Ryan’s The one that got away. A shear herculean feat of determination, grit and skill.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. DSB

    @3 But still full of inconsistencies, sadly.

    In fact a lot of the events are grossly exagerated in both books. If Bravo Two Zero had really been engaged by mechanized infantry, they wouldn’t have lived to tell the tale.

    Most damningly, their old RSM, Peter Ratcliffe accounts that their own personal briefing at Hereford after the events (standard procedure) did not include any of those engagements. In other words, they don’t dare to make shit up in front of their peers, but in writing it’s fine.

    He also says he begged them not to go by helicopter insertion because it left them with no way out, when all the other SAS squads were inserting by ground vehicles, but McNab refused. They could’ve bugged out if they had.

    I’d recommend Eye of the Storm by Peter Ratcliffe or The Real Bravo Two Zero by Michael Asher.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. endgame

    hmm. I’ll read both. very curious.

    also, just finished the SP campaign after 6 hours of continuous gameplay (what can I do? it was on hard. I died a lot.. :))) and I loved it! how awesome it was? solid awesome! idk wtf r those journalists talking about. eurogamer? fu I’m not reading u anymore.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. themadjock

    @4 agreed, you seem to know your subject well. I went through a spell of reading the SAS books a few years back and I remember that the helicopter insertion over rovers was one of their biggest mistakes.

    I’ll look you the RSM’s book and give that a read he seems to have been a genuine character.

    #6 3 years ago
  7. viralshag

    I quite enjoyed some of his fictional writing when I was a bit younger. Some of those where pretty violent and filled with action. Good to see someone speaking some sense for a change.

    #7 3 years ago
  8. DSB

    @6 Yeah, I’m a total geek for books on warfare, and Bravo Two Zero is what got me started way back as well, so I decided to look at all the “counter books” which make a pretty convincing argument. I haven’t read Soldier Five by Coburn though.

    Definitely read Eye of the Storm if you like that sort of thing. It’s not the “action packed” adventure, but it’s a very real and down to earth account of his career through the parachute regiment in Northern Ireland, and the SAS through Oman, the Falklands and Desert Storm.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. Yoshi

    Guardian has a game blog? LMFAO! Best part of this news!

    #9 3 years ago
  10. someguy2

    @9 It’s actually quite good, much better than any other newspaper’s game’s blog.

    #10 3 years ago
  11. sg1974

    Having been a soldier, I can tell you that McNabb is considered the real fucking deal (and you have to remember you don’t know the half of it), while Ryan is largely thought of as a bit of a copycat with a more fertile imagination.

    There’s a joke in the Army that the SAS selection course now includes creative writing.

    #11 3 years ago
  12. DSB

    @11 I don’t know where you’ve been a soldier, but I’ve seen several actual SAS operators basically call him a media whore. Especially based on the briefings that he and Ryan gave back at Hereford, and how they certainly don’t correspond to the events in the books.

    Supposedly they took out most of a mechanized squad, with what, two APCs in support, and escaped out of a wadi using nothing more than fire and maneuver. That’s obvious bullshit. They’d never escape over flat terrain without a casualty.

    And I think it was Ryan who claimed that he took out an entire mounted squad of iraqi soldiers looking for him in the dead of night, using just an M16 and an underslung grenade launcher. As well as claiming a silent kill with his “combat knife” which the SAS guys also had a good laugh about, seeing as they don’t carry “combat knives”, and would never use them in combat, especially for silent kills.

    It’s a fact that McNab shot one or two IRA militiamen in Northern Ireland, which would make him a target, but if he is indeed wanted dead or alive, then it makes little sense to keep going on every television show known to man, and apparently seeking out as much exposure as he can get. I smell a gimmick. No intelligence agency would allow that sort of activity for one of their own who was actively being hunted.

    His record leading up to Desert Storm is supposedly great, but he wrote a book that contained fabrications about the patrol itself, without taking much in the way of responsibility for his actions as patrol leader. Which doesn’t behoove a guy who lost most of his men with the rest captured.

    They’re all good soldiers based on their service, that’s not in question, but McNab and Ryan aren’t honest, and for that they aren’t held in very high regard within the Regiment, according to yet other SAS writers. If I was a soldier, I’d respect the guys who accomplished their missions and came out with their patrols intact.

    #12 3 years ago
  13. sg1974


    I did seven years in the infantry, including Iraq and Afghanistan – both twice. You? I never said McNabb wasn’t a media whore and I already said Ryan had a more fertile imagination – “more” as in more than McNabb’s noted fertility of invention. But people like you really have absolutely no idea of a fraction of it, let alone half.

    “according to yet other SAS writers”

    No bias, prejudice or professional jealousy there….

    “If I was a soldier, I’d respect the guys who … came out with their patrols intact.”

    Spoken like a true civilian armchair expert who’s read lots of books and seen lots of movies but not spent a day in the services.

    #13 3 years ago
  14. sg1974

    Incidentally, Asher’s book is almost entirely based on the accounts of Iraqis ten years after the fact, and apparently motivated by a desire to criticise McNabb and Ryan rather than “tell the truth”.

    #14 3 years ago

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