Everything I know about Nicaragua I learned from video games

If you’re like me and you get all your current events and information from playing video games, you’ll be happy to know that the good folks at Ubisoft, a major French video game publisher, have just released a new game that offers some great insights into rural life in Nicaragua.

This is good news for us English-speaking Nicaphiles who have been wondering what’s been going on here since Bill and Lance defended the country from alien invasion in the 1987 Konami game Contra.

Well wonder no more. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier may not answer all our questions about Nicaragua, but it’s a good starting point.

For example, just in the opening scene of the game I learned that the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve is actually a Preserve . (And here I always thought Bosawas Biosphere Preserve was some kind of awful locally produced noni and marañon marmalade).

Anyway, the game starts with a military convoy driving down the road in the Bosawas Preserve. I had heard about a highway being built through the preserve, and was glad to see it’s apparently completed. I was also happy to see all the progress that’s been made with rural electrification—this is promising for the future of rural tourism.

At a bend in a road, a sniper team positioned on the cliff above kills the driver with a headshot, flipping the lead vehicle, which is carrying military-grade weapons. It is helpful to see that the people at Ubisoft share my concerns about road safety in Nicaragua. (I was also heartened to see that there are guardrails along the side of the road—the MTI is really making progress!)

When the dirty bomb goes off the back of the truck, I was reminded of the importance of government efforts to regulate safe weapons transportation. I hope this is something the National Assembly will give serious attention to after their midyear break.

Red Storm Entertainment explains the plot of Ghost Recon better than I can.

“A four-man Ghost Team call-signed Predator led by Joe Ramirez is deployed in Nicaragua to disrupt weapons trafficking in the region. However, upon inspection of the convoy vehicles, a dirty bomb is detonated, killing Team Predator. Investigating the cause and tracking down the source of the bomb was tasked to another Ghost team call-signed Hunter.”
The game’s inventors tell us that Ghost Recon is a “story of vengeance” that will help gamers “become the ultimate soldier.”

“First into any conflict and last to retreat, the Ghosts handle the missions that no one else can. Inserted deep behind enemy lines, they strike swiftly and then vanish,” the game’s promo reads. “Become the ultimate quiet professional.”

These are helpful tips for anyone, I think. The video game’s message is clear: Nicaragua needs more professionals to remain competitive in a globalized economy.

We must never forget Bill and Lance’s efforts to defend the country from alien invasion in 1987

That reminds me of all the other things that video games taught me in the formative years of my youth. Though I grew up in the technologically challenged era of 16-bit Nintendo graphics, to this day I learned everything I know about ice climbing from playing Ice Climber, everything I know about Greek mythology from playing Athena, everything I know about princess-saving from playing Mario Brothers, and everything I know about urban planning from playing Sim City (The people complain when you surround their pleasant suburban residential complex with a ring of coal plants. But the people don’t know what’s good for them; that’s why they put you in charge of their city).

Tom Clancy’s Blood Soldier Future Recon Ghost helps us understand the complexities of a country that’s still recovering from the alien invasion of 1987 (something government authorities seem to have taken out of the history books, suspiciously).

For those who are interested in learning what Nicaragua was like before the 80s, I recommend you play Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. Released in 2010, that game offers some interesting insights about this country’s early years, from Spanish colonization up to the alien invasion. Though that game is mostly set in Costa Rica, Snake, our hero, has a very spirited conversation with Amanda, a fair-skinned Sandinista soldier, who offers background on some guy named Somoza. She also tells us about the Nicaraguan Canal project, which sounds like it would be great for development!

Though Amanda can get a bit preachy at times, and her history lesson is a little more heady and academic than I’m used to in most games, I learned that “Somoza’s days are numbered.” This is a good thing to keep in mind when talking to folks here, so you don’t accidently offend anyone. It’s probably best to just avoid politics altogether, until this thing plays out.

Anyway, Nicaragua is a fascinating place. And I look forward to learning more about it from future games.

  • http://www.webmentor.cr/ Marco @ Web Mentor

    lol brilliant article. Sarcastic as I love it.

    From your south side of the border, hello from Costa Rica :)

  • http://www.elportonverde.com Mike @ Farmstay El Porton Verde

    My bride and I have commented several times how great it would be to have a Nicaraguan driving game where you could have the taxis rush to get in front of you and then come to a dead stop trying to pick up a fare, buses passing you on the right and sometimes falling into a ditch going up in flames, humongous car-swallowing potholes that suddenly appear, the guaro “zombies” tottering into the road or using speedbumps as pillows sticking their arms and legs out well into the road, not to mention the farm animals and people doing the “chicken crossing the road” trick i.e. running across the street right in front of you just to get a thrill I ‘spose :-) As they say on another website, it’s a whole other world…

    Good stuff as usual Tim!

    • Tim Rogers

      My friend once told me: “Driving through Masaya is like playing Frogger Level 5.”

    • Nero

      Mike, lets not forget the 200 pound pigs crossing the street, dont bother honking just stop cause they wont.

  • Rolando

    Actually, I always thought that the game “Tropico” is an accurate simulation of how things work in Nicaragua.

    • Tim Rogers

      I think you can actually be Somoza in Tropico III

  • http://jugandoserio@blogspot.com Ocampo

    As a matter of fact, Nicaragua has jumped into the spotlight due to its violent political history, and yet all that our friends above say is correct: you can play as Somoza in Tropico III, taxi and bus drivers are a menace and Tipitapa is worse than Masaya when it comes to feeling like in a Frogger game.

    I’m actually surprised Nicaragua hasn’t been the setting for another Just Cause game.