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MODERN WARFARE 2 & DOUBLE STANDARDS

29 Oct 2009

So I guess some spoilers for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 got out. Big spoilers. The kind that make us gamers very, very upset. This post will discuss one of them: the one that's been making the rounds today. To avoid Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 spoilers, stop reading now!

GamePolitics has the story about leaked game footage which appears to show a sequence in which the player guns down innocent civilians. Kotaku has confirmation from Activision that the leaked footage is indeed real, and that:

"The game includes a plot involving a mission carried out by a Russian villain who wants to trigger a global war. In order to defeat him, the player infiltrates his inner circle. The scene is designed to evoke the atrocities of terrorism."

It seems that as the story makes the rounds, it's not the mainstream media that's upset by the violence this team (though they most certainly will be once they catch wind of it). No, in this case it seems to be the gaming community crying foul, and I find that rather curious.

GamePolitics pretty much sums up the argument:

What makes the footage so striking is the level of visuals in Modern Warfare 2, as even in blurry online footage the action looks almost real, taking this a level beyond the cartoonish violence of games such as Grand Theft Auto.

Wait... really? 'Cause these still both look like video games to me:

gta4

mw2

And graphics whoring aside, isn't this the same argument anti-game activists have been using for a decade now? We've always called out the media on their double standard, on the inherent absurdity of this idea that games can be "too realistic" but somehow films (live action!) cannot. And now, suddenly, we're backpedaling?

Look: we all defended Grand Theft Auto IV, a game in which you mow down countless civilians. It's a game so realistic, IGN's Michael Tomsen commented:

It was a bad day personally, but I was unprepared for just how evocative and beautiful Rockstar's fictional homage to New York City would be... I was inhabiting a world precariously close to a real place where a very specific person, whom I cared about a great deal, could actually be.

Kotaku's Michael McWhertor agrees:

Rockstar has upped the ante, creating a startlingly realistic reinterpretation of New York City as backdrop to a violent crime epic.

Grand Theft Auto IV is a brutally violent game set in one of the most realistic depictions of the modern world to grace consoles this generation, and the gamer community welcomed it with open arms. Team Xbox even enthused:

But perhaps the biggest innovation is the notion that you can create a game that's as valid a piece of art as any book or movie. Is this our "Citizen Kane" moment?

What is Modern Warfare 2 missing that Grand Theft Auto IV had? Why is Modern Warfare 2's civilian-shooting being called out for going too far, while Grand Theft Auto IV's civilian-shooting is our industry's "Citizen Kane" moment? If this were your local TV news doing the freaking out, I could understand it. There, there's precedent. But for gamers to espouse this obvious double standard is just retarded.

As noted in the Activision statement, "The scene is designed to evoke the atrocities of terrorism." Hey, all you folks complaining that games need to grow up? This is part of that: games expressing ideas and making you feel things that you might find uncomfortable, forcing you to confront concepts and experiences you'd maybe rather not think about. If you think the scene is in poor taste, you can skip it: Activision has confirmed that. But if you want games to grow up, you need to grow up with them.

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video-games