The Pursuit of Visceral Gaming Warfare and Games Journalism

By now it isn’t a secret to anyone about the new Call of Duty: Modern Warfare reboot.  Infinity Ward has not been shy about talking to the media and making sure people know exactly where they’re coming from.  After how far Activision has pushed the franchise to being over-the-top post-modern to outright futuristic warfare, Infinity Ward actually wants to push the envelope completely in the opposite direction.  They want to get back to what made the best games in the franchise the hallmarks that they were.  More specifically, Modern Warfare 2.

That game is regarded pretty much universally as the best game in the franchise, and rightly so.  It was perfect.  While the protagonists of the game were always silent, the people you served with had personality.  The conflicts you were involved in were intense and fun.  From fighting in the Middle East, to war back home.  War on American soil made that game what it is.  It was portrayed as terrifying and tragic.  One mission begins with you hearing nothing but the alert television ad, giving you time to think about what you’re about to experience, before you wake up in an underground bunker where wounded Army troops are dropped off and the radio chatter tells you that the battle isn’t going well.

People think that the thing that everyone remembers about the game is the “No Russian” mission, and while that was the big juicy thing that the media everywhere was talking about, in my eyes it’s not what made the game great.  What made it great is that warfare in it seemed genuinely difficult.  You go from an elite group of troops to Army Ranger soldiers in the thick of a battle that they are losing.  Regardless of you getting your mission completed in the game, the military is still losing.  It takes an insane act by Capt. Price to save the military from utter defeat, and he had to break all the rules to do it.

The new game coming out this year looks to go even deeper into making war not something that is bombastic and cool, but ugly and visceral.  You see in the trailer a bombing in London, with a terrorist jumping on top of a car and shooting the people inside.  A cop that I’m assuming you play as is behind cover, and when you hear their gun fire, you can almost feel the weight of it and how scary this situation would be.  Articles about the demo they showed off tells of an elite SAS team in the UK who is going after the terrorists, and how you have to breach and clear a safehouse of theirs.  Descriptions of that are hardcore.  You will have to make calls about if someone is deadly or not.  There is room to kill innocent people.  It’s an ugly business, but that’s what warfare is.  Reading those articles was making my mouth water.  Finally, a game about modern warfare that treats it with the respect for how violent and intense it is!

Gaming journalist outlets, however, are already disagreeing.  Dean Takahashi wrote a long article about how Infinity Ward should censor themselves and not make warfare so ugly.  Especially since it involves brown people.  Specifically radical Muslims.  You know, a problem that Europe has been dealing with, along with the violence that has come with it for years now.  I wonder where Infinity Ward got their inspiration from.  Oh right, they said outright that it was from the headlines.  From real world problems that they are adapting into fiction.  IGN did a video where two chicks were talking about how the demo made them really uncomfortable.  As if that’s a really bad thing.  Hell, another person at IGN wanted there to be a non-lethal option.  In a war game.  How utterly absurd.

I have one person who is near and dear to my heart in the Navy.  I have a friend who is in the Air Force.  I know from talking with them about their training and the world they live in that war is no joke.  It shouldn’t be treated as one.  But it also means that when war is the situation you’re in, violence will result in people dying.  That’s part of how this works.  Why is it that gaming journalists are so desperate for there to be nothing in a game about war that is meant to be realistic to a large degree to not be uncomfortable or to have an option where no one has to die?

Honestly, it’s pretty simple – brown people.  When you make a modern warfare game based on the world we live in now, it’s a foregone conclusion that a large chunk of who you are going to be killing is Middle Eastern.  So for journalists whose publications have been completely ideologically consumed by the social justice community, this fact makes it so they have to make sure that they put out that they decried the whole exercise, how they were so offended, how they wished it didn’t have to be this way.  It doesn’t matter what the context is.  It doesn’t matter that known terrorists who just committed a violent act against innocent people are confirmed to be in there, along with their families who probably are brought in against their will.  They have brown skin, so it’s wrong.

When I heard Rock Star talking about how they couldn’t release Grand Theft Auto 6 in today’s climate, I got where they’re coming from.  Games journalism does more to go after the medium they are supposed to report on than accurately report on it.  A new game in a franchise that is known to have killable people and the much-maligned sex with prostitutes who you can then kill, it’s almost a guarantee that gaming media would immediately work to turn people against it.  That’s the world we live in now.  I don’t know it, but what can you do?

For my part, when I hear Infinity Ward now talking about how they are toning stuff down, it gives me pause.  They have sworn up and down that this isn’t them censoring themselves, but is just part of the development process, I’m skeptical.  Their initial push for this game had me hooked.  I still am.  But the conflict between games journalism and the people they are supposed to report on is starting to have a clear connection on the medium that I love and how people are starting to censor themselves.

The market seems to agree with my sentiments.  Games that embrace what Infinity Ward is pushing for sell.  They sell really, really well.  People want this level of realism in their military FPS games, and a company like Activision understands how to read market forces.  Why do you think they gave Infinity Ward the go-ahead for this?  It’s because their brand is tanking and they desperately need someone to bring it back from the depths.

I genuinely hope that the Modern Warfare reboot lives up to the hype.  It would be a game that EVERYBODY would be talking about, which is probably what Infinity Ward is hoping for, along with Activison.  A game about the ugliness of war, where one mechanic has it rating if you were precise or if innocent people got killed is pretty fantastic.  I mean to be a precision-based machine.  When this game drops, it’s almost a guarantee that the articles about it are going to be everywhere.  We’ll see what the limp-wristed, easily-offended people in the medium will say.

Until next time, a quote,

“Well Summer, maybe the people who create things aren’t concerned with your delicate sensibilities.  You know?  Maybe the species who communicate with each other through the filter of your comfort are less evolved than the ones who just communicate.  Maybe your problems are your own to deal with, and maybe the public giving a shit about your feelings is a one-way ticket to extinction.” – Morty, Rick and Morty

Peace out,

Maverick

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