Fascination with Snipers

What is it about snipers that makes them so cool? I love the idea of a sniper. But I can’t determine why. I’m not in the military. I have no professional reason for this fascination. I am not a marksman. I have no fanatical reason, either. The only experience that I have with sniping is from Hollywood and video games, especially Halo and Call of Duty. Why the fascination? I don’t know, but I can tell you what I like about sniping.

Think back to the days of the old black Xbox. Halo was the game of choice. It had a wide array of weapons, but one of the coolest was a .50 caliber sniper rifle with a 10x zoom scope and optional night vision. Precision. Accuracy. Stealth. Power.

Fast forward to Halo 2 on Xbox Live matchmaking. The queue is snipers–a specified game type devoted to the .50 cal sniper mentioned above minus optional night vision scope with a secondary alien sniper rifle, an energy beam type, and grenades and stickies amidst a 4v4 grudge match. Cat and mouse. Hide and seek. Solo, pairs, or groups. High ground. Low ground. Strongholds. Scoping. No scope pwning. ‘Twas the gentlemen’s game: evenly matched with identical firepower, but the men separate themselves from the boys through precision, strategy, and team work. It was amazing. Hours upon hours were spent in sniper glory. Win or lose, it was intense fun.

Then came Halo 3. Snipers no longer existed in it’s own Xbox Live queue. The sniper rifle itself was made more precise, requiring even greater accuracy in the hands of the shooter. The four rounds of the sniper could not leave the gun as fast as the predecessors. With the accelerometer speeding up head movement, aiming became much more difficult. When it eventually got its own queue again, snipers simply was no longer the same intense fun. Not to mention, it wasn’t as balanced, because the alien sniper was no longer the secondary weapon. Either the pistol or the shot gun was the secondary, giving a heavy advantage to the combatant armed with the smaller weapon in a close range battle against an opponent who still has the sniper in hand. This distaste lead me to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

Before Modern Warfare, I had played Call of Duty 2 and 3. They were fun, because they were nostalgic. They had realistic but classic sniper rifles. Still required accuracy. Still possessed power. But it had an added element of realism. The sniper could hold his breath to steady his aim. Super cool.

Now, fast forward to Modern Warfare. It was as realistic as they could be. But add to all the realistic weapons, steadying the aim, and add in stealth. Snipers could wear camouflage appropriate to the surrounding environment. Bangarang. This level of stealth is unparalleled. However, it doesn’t stop here.

Modern Warfare 2 takes the video game sniping cake. Cool weaponry. Sweet tech. Awesome stealth. But then it added in awesome tactics awarding the solo sniper for his patient and valiant efforts: predator missiles, harrier strikes, pavlo choppers, gunner choppers, and even game ending nuclear bombs. These enable the sniper to go rogue, patiently work to destroy the opponent, and, with the aforementioned perks, become a one man army, a multiplier.

I’m not here to determine which game is better between Halo and Call of Duty. I’m here to declare what I like about snipers. But I have merely covered video games. I have yet to talk about Hollywood.

There are several movies and a couple of TV shows that come to mind immediately concerning snipers. Enemy at the Gates is an awesome sniper vs sniper movie. I love it. I get engrossed in it. Saving Private Ryan has a sniper and even a sniper vs sniper aspect, but it left me wanting more. Shooter is, simply put, awesometown. Mark Whalberg does a great job in that movie. Bad to the bone. Tough. Patient. Smart. The movie shows the versatile but deadly nature of a sniper. It highlights how well a sniper utilizes stealth to attain victory. This movie, like Enemy at the Gates, kept 110% of my attention all the way through.

Movies are not the only Hollywood aspect. Leroy Jethro Gibbs from NCiS is a Marine Corp sniper, and the show relies on his past quite a bit, and I never tire of it. This show demonstrates through fiction how sophisticated the methods and tactics of a sniper really are.

More so than NCIS, the History Channel has had a couple of episodes highlighting sniper stories from Vietnam through the current day. This show is absolutely impressive. Not only does it recount the story of some sniper kicking butt and taking names, but it offers reasoning, strategy, science, and replicated experiments. It is superb.

So, there you have it. I’m fascinated by snipers. I love the power and precision of a sniper rifle. I am drawn to the stealth strategy of a sniper. I applaud the sophisticated methods a sniper uses. It’s similar in many respects to my fascination with ninjas, but that’s for a different time. Maybe all of these things fascinate me because I like strategy and sophistication? Maybe it’s because I like the concept of a lone ranger? Or, maybe it’s the psychological association I have with the fond memories from Halo 2 Xbox Live?

What about you? Are you fascinated by snipers? What’s your favorite sniper game? Sniper show? Sniper movie? Why do snipers fascinate you?