It’s been discussed that milsim players believe that if they buy better equipment, they will be better players. Why is that?
In order to answer this question of why, we first need to understand who we are talking about and what their influences are. The largest portion of milsim gamers are under the age of 30 (including myself), meaning they have grown up with video games and the internet. Now more than ever, these two media are huge sources of information for this generation. So what is the internet and video game industry telling us?
The internet is flooded with photos and videos from current conflicts. We see all kinds of troops conducting multiple mission types and even watch helicopters killing people through their own weapon sights. We also watch documentaries, press releases and candid media of our special operations forces. Idolized everywhere, many impressionable youth are infatuated with these warriors. In these photos and video what do we see of these men and women? We see the best gear, the latest weapons and the outcomes of their high profile missions. So clearly that equipment must be what makes them so great, right?
Recently there have been two feature length movies about US Navy SEALs which seem to confirm this notion. Each has featured these warriors using the hottest kit on the market (and the most expensive). They are shown performing almost impossible tasks, winning every battle despite the odds and things that might go wrong. Again, all we see is their gear and their actions so it must be the gear that enables them to do these things.
Almost every first person shooter will strengthen this idea of kit equals success. When you play a first person shooter game online you generally start out with a very basic weapon and unlock attachments for that weapon along with better weapons and abilities as you play. The best players are seen with the best, hardest to unlock kit. Therefore, the best players must be better because they have better kit.
So how could we make any other conclusion? Obviously the guys with the best gear are the best at soldiering so clearly it’s the gear that makes them better right!? Wrong. It is the training they receive that makes them as capable as they are. This has been confirmed for me over and over in my milsim journey.
When I started playing I used a LC-2 belt and suspenders type kit to carry my equipment. Since then I have collected various MOLLE vests, plate carriers, newer camouflage patterns, high speed helmets, and all sorts of tactical odds and ends that I use from time to time. Am I a better player now than I was when I began? Of course! Every time I go out on the field I learn something new that will make me better for next time. But here’s the thing, I’m just as effective in the field with that same old belt and suspenders kit as I am with my latest and most expensive plate carrier. I still use the LC-2 system all the time and I do not feel handicapped at all when I use it against people with the latest and most expensive load bearing solutions.
So what is my point in saying all of this? My point is that while kit may give you more capabilities it will not, in any way make you a better player. Skill is what will make you a better player. Skill takes time and effort to develop, which is another reason many have bought into the delusion that gear is a shortcut to getting better.
So what do we do? How do we show players that they need skill to go along with their kit? I believe it must begin with the retailers and game promoters. Currently, both fall right in line with the “kit will make you a better player” myth. Retailers do it because it makes them a ton of money, and promoters do it because they want retailers to like them and sponsor their events. What they don’t realize is that they are essentially preventing their player base from becoming better. Some may laugh all the way to the bank but for those who actually desire their milsim community to improve as a whole it’s time to take a different approach.