Watching Through a Scope

Back when I used to play video games, there was one weapon that was prevalent in most of the games I played that I loved to use – the sniper rifle. I remember when the first Halo came out and how fun the game was with the sniper rifle. As Master Chief, you would line up the alien enemy in your sights while they would be unaware, following them around in the rifle scope until you took the shot. It was immensely satisfying.

One of the games I played when I got back into video games was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Something felt off when I played it though. Killing characters in a video game world, especially the non-fantastical one represented in Call of Duty, did not have the same kind of appeal it once did.

When I was in Sarajevo, my guide took me up on the mountains of Sarajevo, showing me a former sniper’s nest. From 1992-1995, Sarajevo was under siege as part of the war, with the Serbs watching the city from vantage points around the city. Depending on where one was living, residents of Sarajevo had to make a run for it if they wanted to cross certain areas or would otherwise risk being picked off by a sniper watching from a nest. One area in particular that was a danger for citizens was nicknamed “Sniper Alley”, which I had also taken a drive down.

My guide explained that snipers would also report on positions from their perspective, giving information to tanks that were situated around the mountains, which could aim their firepower in the appropriate direction.

I stood there in the nest for a minute, looking into the city. I tried to imagine what it would be like to be one of the people down below during the siege, walking around and not knowing whether or not someone was watching from the mountains. I couldn’t really comprehend it.

And then I wondered what it would be like for someone to crouch down there in the nest, looking at people through a scope, choosing who to shoot. I couldn’t imagine that either, and honestly, really wouldn’t want to.

Standing in the sniper’s nest

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Close up of the city from the nest

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Bosnia is remarkable in the fact that these people have endured so much during the war and yet are some of the nicest people you will come across and honestly, I don’t think I can stomach playing any kind of video game that glorifies war now, especially after some of the stories I heard. The fact that I ever took pleasure using a sniper rifle in a video game makes me feel a bit ill. It’s so easy to play something like that and forget that there are places in the world that have endured the kind of death and destruction portrayed on the screen.

After coming back, I admit that there’s still so much about the war in Bosnia that I don’t know about. I have a few books and movies on my list now to dive into to get a more comprehensive account of all that happened in Bosnia. My trip has definitely left an impact on me and even though I’m back, I don’t think I’ll stop thinking about Bosnia for a while.

If you’re interested, one movie recommendation I had while I was there was the film No Man’s Land. I still need to check it out myself.

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