So, technically none of them are an icon in themselves, it’s the idea of the Expendable Soldier. All games have their expendable soldiers — unnamed, underutilized, uncared about — but they play a bigger part than you’d think. Just ask yourself: What if there were no unnamed soldiers in gaming?
From Call of Duty to Command & Conquer, from Clash of Clans to World of Tanks, these are the expendable men and women; the people known just by their job title or the word “Soldier”. The people we have no problem sending into the battle, hoping they’ll live but only hating their death because of the time and resources it takes to ‘train’ (Read: Create) one.
But what are their backstories? They must have families, lives, something before we thoughtlessly recruited and forced them into battle. They are fighting somebody, something, willingly and obediently following our orders to shoot, hide, run, move there, or whatever our usually flawed strategies have them doing. By themselves, they are nothing. Together, they are a fearsome force of soldiers, fighters, warriors, engineers, fixers, defenders, attackers, and munition experts. Without them, you’d have nobody to defend the base, to attack the enemy, seize the building, destroy the tank, or fight off the enemy. Unless you wanted to send your named heroes in. But who wants to do that? Better to let the Lemmings, however inaccurate that statement is, do it.
When you think about it, these soldiers are actually MORE IMPORTANT than your heroes and your Tanyas. This is because unlike your hero, which there is usually only one of and is somebody that you keep for later, with expendable soldiers, there are many more, and you don’t keep them for later. I don’t know about you, but I can tell you that myself when I have a whole bunch of Recruits or Troopers in Command & Conquer or a similar game, I don’t wait until I’ve trained Tanya to send them out. No, I send in a swarm to take the building or destroy the tank, knowing that many of the men are (unfortunately) going to become cannon fodder in my ever-lasting battle against the Axis, or Soviets, or who- or what- ever else the enemies are.
Coming back to the point raised at the beginning of this article, if there were no unnamed, expendable soldiers, these games would be much different. Instead of Zerg rushes or sending men to garrison that building, you’d have to carefully plan a strategy where instead of doing rushes, you had to plan for the safety of your irreplaceable hero. And how much fun would that be?
All we ask is that next time you play a game, and you are sending soldiers to their death instead of just spending the money and buying the big bazooka which will rock that wall, consider them and their sacrifice to you. Because they are sacrificing themselves on the altar of war, and you are the Head Priest.