My first brush with Tom Clancy was in 1992, when Patriot Games, starring Harrison Ford, was released.
I had not seen the 1990 film, The Hunt For Red October, but Patriot Games spoke to me because while I was never into anything related to the military, the movie was about a retired CIA operative (which is about as normal as one can get in Hollywood) Jack Ryan, who saves one of the British royals from an assassination attempt.
When the sequel Clear And Present Danger was released two years later, I was hooked. It was not about Ford playing Ryan in a film, but I was fascinated with Ryan as the everyman doing the best that he could. When I enlisted in 1995, I figured it was a good time as any to learn more about politics, patriotism, wars and the military-industrial complex.
I soaked up a majority of Clancy's novels and read everything up to Executive Orders, when Ryan becomes president of the United States. It is still one of my favourite books set in the Jack Ryan universe, because it also helps to explain the intricacies of the American political system.
But by then, my attention was drawn to another character, John Clark. Clark started out as a minor character in the Jack Ryan universe, but soon became a fan-favourite soldier and hero. Clancy eventually incorporated Clark in more novels and even used him as a lead in Without Remorse and Rainbow Six.
If the second name sounds familiar, it is because Rainbow Six is a series of popular military-based tactical first-person shooting games.
Due in part to the success of his novels and movies, Clancy branched out into video games and started a series of popular military-styled video game hits and gamers cannot talk about military shooters or tactical games without at least referencing Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell, or Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon.
Each franchise became a hit in its own right, even after Clancy's game studio, Red Storm Entertainment, was sold to game developer Ubisoft in 2000. I suspect that by that time, Clancy had less of a hand in each subsequent Tom Clancy branded game released by Ubisoft, but sequels to these games still bear his name.
His name has become a strong brand in the same vein that movies or TV shows are presented by director Quentin Tarantino or horror novelist Stephen King, even if they were not directed or written by the more famous men.
What made Clancy's games sell was their authenticity. It is hard to believe, but before Clancy's games, all weapons reloaded the same way, and there was a distinct lack of military tactics involved. In his games, the many weapons are treated as being distinct, so reloading and firing one weapon was drastically different from the handling of another.
This has become the standard for almost all good shooting games and we have Clancy to thank for that. I recently reviewed the latest Clancy game, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist and while credit can go to the new crop of developers for making such an intense game, the foundation for the game was established by one novelist years ago, and many of these elements still remain.
Perhaps it is ironic that Clancy, the man who showed his love for America through his books, died the same week that the American government shut down. I bet this incident would have made it into one of his future books and I would have loved to read his take on it.
With any luck, maybe it will appear in a future Clancy video game.
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