This is prompted partly by the slight debate over whether or not mechs would have lights in their cockpit during night-time battles :D
Obviously they wouldn’t, but that’s nitpicking in comparison with everything else wrong with the situation. If World War I was being fought with mech technology, it would be fought with nukes, from thousands of miles away, and the mechs themselves would certainly not be manned. Why bother? we already have unmanned drones fighting in wars today.
Many Many years ago I remember playing a PC game, it might have been called EF2000 (edit: it was see here!) And although it was fairly accurate and technical and probably very ‘realistic’ it was dull as hell. You never *saw* an enemy plane. The onboard computer identified it, locked the target and you just said “yeah… go on then”. Realism++, fun–.
Most games these days do not take that approach, but more of a laughably shallow and innocent view of what we wish the future would be like, but secretly know it won’t be. When the black and white flash gordon serials were filmed, they *might* have been able to say this will be the future with a straight face, but not now. Star Wars was world war 2 navy battles, inexplicably in space. Star trek was a western, inexplicably in space, but it almost made sense. There was enough stuff that *did* make sense, and come true, such as hyposprays, communicators, voice recognition and translation in real time, cloaking devices… etc.
Also, there was some stuff we haven’t cracked yet, like time travel, teleporting, blah blah. But that doesn’t mean this can’t be done one day…
Where it all goes wrong is weapons. The Star Wars / Flash Gordon / Star Trek weapons are laughable. Which would you rather have in a fight? An AK47 or a phaser? An Uzi or han solos blaster? The weapons are woeful, doing laughably poor damage, over hilariously short distances. The phantom menace battle droids are truly rubbish. Mechs make no strategic sense. Helicopters are better in every way.
We stick with this, for entertainment purposes, because we suspend our disbelief and remember being 7 years old and ‘buying in’ to the idea of the laser rifle, but for how long will this laughable fantasy work? A kid these days won’t have any innocent years where the whole world believes in laser pistols and space fighter planes dogfighting. These days sci-fi isn’t flash gordon, it’s Iain M Banks and his amazing worlds of smarter-than-us AI fighting battles between self-aware starships millions of kilometers apart using invisible weapons in battles that last fractions of a second. Awesome stuff, but shit for games.
So what do we do? will the belief-suspension bubble burst for sci fi weapons? How long can we keep re-fighting the battle of stalingrad with lasers and shiny space robots? A long time, I hope :D