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

Video Game Journalist Decrying War Violence as Worthy of Censorship (A response to Dean Takahashi)

I did a post yesterday talking about the trailer that dropped for the new Call of Duty: Modern Warfare game.  It looks to be a soft-reboot of the franchise, in the same vein as the most recent God of War game.  And it looks awesome.  To think that I am excited for a game in this franchise, which has born the wrath of Activision’s predatory practices for this long, is amazing.  It looks like Infinity Ward has listened to what people wanted – gritty, boots-on-the-ground war.  And that’s what they are delivering.  A game that people will have a lot to talk about.  Everything that has been released shows that while multiplayer is always going to be a thing in this franchise, the single player is getting the love it deserves, and then some.  No gimmicks like Zombies.  Just a good campaign and great multiplayer.  Sounds like a match made in Heaven.

But not to one games journalist, who thinks that this game is going too far.  He was invited to a big event Activision hosted inviting tons of games journalists to show off what’s new in this latest entry in the franchise, and give them a taste of what was to come.  And he wasn’t pleased one bit.  It’s the same guy who made that hilarious Cuphead video where he spent 26 minutes on the tutorial because he’s an idiot – Dean Takahashi.  Here’s a link to the article, now let’s talk about it.

I have been a Call of Duty fan from the first game in 2003. But I have never wondered about this question before, until now. Should this particular game, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, be made? The small glimpse I’ve seen of it so far tells me no.

Why does EVERY SINGLE article of this nature begin like this?  They all begin with having to establish their cred as fans of gaming or a specific kind of game.  I guess it’s to try and head off the criticism that they are just the uninitiated.  Not for me.  I always call bullshit every time I see this stuff, because they say this to immediately set up shitting on something.

The publisher’s Infinity Ward studio recently showed a part of the single-player campaign for an upcoming installment of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, and it has scenes and gameplay in it that are very disturbing to me. It brings to mind the No Russian controversy, where civilians are mowed down in a Russian airport in 2009’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

Um, what’s the problem with that?  No Russian was a mission that was designed to make players feel uncomfortable.  That was the point.  Their character was engaging in senseless violence against civilians for a greater objective.  It was supposed to be disturbing.  Why is it a bad thing that this game is going down the same path?

Infinity Ward developers got up onstage at a recent event at the studio’s headquarters in Southern California. Then they showed a press group the scenes. They warned us the game would be mature, authentic, and gritty. No longer would we be jumping about like superheroes. It is grounded in realistic, modern combat and “a complex world that mirrors our own.” Activision says the game has an “incredibly raw, gritty, provocative narrative that brings unrivaled intensity and shines a light on the changing nature of modern war.”

Man, what great publicity.  That sounds awesome!  I’ve been looking for a gritty war game that actually shines a light on how war is ugly and the reality of being part of it is awful for everyone involved for ages.  I did an entire post about what I would love to see in a war game (linked here).  If Infinity Ward actually listened to stuff like that and is going the distance with a dark concept, then they can take my money now!

The premise is that the rules of war have changed. It’s not black-and-white — it’s gray, with a fine line between right and wrong. And yet, undoubtedly, this gritty single-player campaign will be coupled with multiplayer combat where killing is a sport. If you put these things together with extremely realistic human characters, it becomes even more disturbing.

Oh boy.  Let the slippery slope fallacies begin.

In the first scene, terrorists attack central London. A team of British SAS operatives gathers in front of a townhouse that they suspect harbors a terrorist cell. In a manner that resembles a raid in Rainbow Six: Siege, they gather together to storm the house. The music is menacing. The military chatter is by the book. And the people look so real. If you passed by a TV with someone playing the game, you could easily mistake the game for a segment of a documentary about the war in Syria.

Again, you do great promotion, Mr. Takahashi.  This sounds absolutely splendid.  Since Europe is currently dealing with a mass of Islamic radicals committing terrorist acts on the regular, I gotta say, this feels true to modern warfare.  Seems like the devs are really putting in some real world connections.  You allude to the game’s director talking about the amount of dedication they put into the realism of it.

But the game differs from other gritty combat games based on who is in each room. The characters appear to be Muslim terrorist fighters in mostly civilian garb. But those characters include both men and women.

This sounds really awesome.  I love that we finally are getting away from video game villains just being men.  I like that women can be enemies now too.  Especially if you’re fighting radical Islamic terrorists, where it happens a lot that women are either used as living weapons or are radical themselves and will go the distance.  For a game that is marketing on showing ugly, believable warfare, this goes so far in selling that concept to me.

And in the final room, you confront an unarmed woman. She tries to divert you. She moves despite your warnings to stop. She then grabs a bomb detonator. You have to shoot her.

Yup.  That’s war.  It’s ugly.  It ain’t pretty.  Sometimes you gotta do some morally gray shit.  You are really bad at making this kind of game sound bad.  Everything you say makes me want to buy this game more.

This is the nature of modern combat, the developers say. But this should not be a part of a modern video game, in my opinion, given the thin line between civilians and warriors and given the impression it creates in our world, which is driven by social media sound and video bites. It looks so much like you are killing innocent civilians. And if you make a mistake, you are.

Another ideological idiot who I guess never saw the studies (so many studies.  Tons and tons of studies, mostly commissioned by governments) showing that video game violence has no connection to real life violence.  No, can’t have the facts get in the way of a good narrative, eh?

To that last bit, yeah, war is an ugly thing.  Civilians die all the time.  Earlier he brings up that there is a woman who runs for her baby but the devs said you can’t shoot her.  Personally, I think that wouldn’t be the worst if there was a chance she could be a casualty.  War is ugly, and letting the players be able to experience that first-hand is what I have been wanting to see for ages.  Maybe have things get crazy, and you’re shooting and fail to realize you killed someone just trying to protect their child.  It would leave an impression, for sure.

My reaction is not that the developers should censor themselves or someone else should censor them. My question is about choices. We can make this kind of game, but should we? But should this kind of content, which we can see in movies or books, be in a video game? Should they be depicted in a form of art where we have so much agency? It’s going to be a Mature-rated game that kids shouldn’t play, but I had a conversation with an Uber driver who told me he lets his 6-year-old play Call of Duty.

So…you don’t want gaming companies to censor themselves, you just want them to not put stuff in games.  In other words, you want them to censor themselves.  This guy is so full of shit.

And as for the Uber driver you talked about, it’s up to parents to figure out what their kids can handle.  That’s part of being a parent.  If more people would actually do it, what a world it would be.  I personally wouldn’t like my 6-year-old play a game like this.  At least not if I hadn’t talked with them and they understood that it isn’t real and that hurting real people is bad.  There are some kids who get that, and can handle that.  My favorite episode of Bullshit! had that, with a kid who understood and a mom who knew her child understood that difference.  Parenting is hard.  Perhaps you are unaware.

I would like a Call of Duty game that makes me think hard, feels intense, and is fun to play. And I usually shrug off criticism from people who say these games are too violent. As far as I can tell, you still play the “good guys” in this game. Michael Condrey, the former co-head of Activision’s Sledgehammer Games, said at our recent GamesBeat Summit event that, in the age of the shooting at Christchurch in New Zealand, is it really appropriate to make a game like Modern Warfare today.

Oh for fuck’s sake.  Slippery Slope Fallacy!  The fact that the shooter did video of himself committing the crime like it was a video game doesn’t mean that video games bear the blame for it.  It means that he was a fucking psycho who decided to treat killing innocent people like it was a game.  He even pimped out PewDiePie just because he thought it was funny.  The contributor to this was the fact that this guy didn’t feel empathy and wanted to kill people who are part of a religion he doesn’t like.  This is NOT on the shoulders of those who make games.  Infinity Ward isn’t responsible for this.  Nor is any other developer.  But we have to get moral grandstanders like this nitwit who decide that they should tell them to censor themselves in order to appease his sensibilities.  Maybe, if this game is too dark for you – don’t play it.  That’s an option.  You don’t have to play games like this.  You can stick to Fortnite like the rest of the plebs.

The article wraps up with – dark war game bad and shouldn’t be dark war game.  As for me, fuck that!  If what this dude talks about is only part of this game, I cannot wait to get ahold of it!  The visuals are amazing, It’s going back to warfare without all the bombastic set-pieces.  I wanna play.

Until next time, a quote,

“I will say this – getting out of the Vietnam War through daddy’s connections and then not living up to your end of the bargain is probably a form of cowardice.” – George Carlin

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s First Take: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

I have such a confused amount of emotions right now.  See, on the one hand, Activision is an evil corporation who, over the last few years, has produced some of the biggest piles of shit.  They are money-grubbing cocksuckers who don’t care about anything but milking players from their wallets.  The stories about them are plentiful, and they have earned the hatred players have for them.  So when I heard that they were rebooting the Modern Warfare games, I was all aboard to hate it.  I love the original three games.  Even the third one, which has its problems but is still fun.  It’s an okay conclusion to the saga.  So when I heard that Activision was rebooting this, I figured that I would have nothing but negative things to say about it.  However, with the trailer for it finally having dropped…I’m sorry, but this looks awesome.  I feel so bad saying that.  How can a game in this franchise look this good?!  Let’s watch it, then talk about it.

We start with some absolutely breath-taking visuals, which the trailer promises me are in-game footage.  There’s a very British guy narrating, about the rules changing (a phrase that needs to die.  It’s been used in fucking everything, and it needs to die), and how him and his are being sent into places that nobody knows about to do bad things.  Okay.  Then we zoom in on the British guy and see that it’s Captain Price.  Only voiced by a new person this time.  Kinda bummed about that.  I loved the original voice-over of Price.  But let’s see where this goes.

Following this, there is a breath-taking montage of visuals that are just incredible.  Our special forces guys are breaching a home and killing people.  Then there are some Army dudes jumping out of a plane.  That’s cool too.  A cut to what seems to be some kind of riot, and a dude shooting at someone in a car.  Then it seems we are in the perspective of a cop, shooting back.  Wonder what the story is there.  Riding along with some tanks in a Middle Eastern nation, with a fighter blowing shit up, and troops on the ground getting caught in an explosion.  It looks like the primary backdrop of this game is in the Middle East, where shit has gotten real.  Okay.  To be fair, that is modern warfare.  Proxy wars in the Middle East.  Liking what I see.

Then it cuts to…a child soldier?  Damn.  I had heard Infinity Ward was going to be going all dark and gritty, but I genuinely didn’t expect them to go to this level.  Not complaining.  I love some darkness, so long as it is handled well.  Too many times, dark things in games are either brushed aside or handled poorly.  But this is Infinity Ward, after all.  They did make Modern Warfare 2, which had one of the darkest scenes in all of gaming.  So let’s see where this goes.

It concludes by telling us that the game is coming out October 25th.  Again, I’m sorry guys, but it looks cool.  A promise of a rich campaign, with a compelling narrative, made by the guys who made the best games in the original franchise.  I’m not gonna lie, I wanna play.  It’s trendy to hate on Call of Duty these days.  They’ve made some real shit in the last few years.  Their parent company is a money-grubbing asshole.  But maybe this is what it will take to pull them out of a rut.  Going back to boots on the ground with a compelling narrative and good characters.  A man can dream, right?

Initial Verdict
I feel dirty liking this

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s First Take: Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Reveal Trailer

You ever see a concept for a game that could be really cool, then you realize what developer or series the game is in and realize that it’s going to be a steaming pile of shit?  Yeah, that’s this game.  Anyone who has been paying attention knows that the Call of Duty franchise has been getting progressively-worse over time.  Ever since Modern Warfare 2, the games have just been getting more and more like shit.  The set-pieces are always bigger, the tech and weapons are getting more and more ridiculous.  It’s has become a parody of itself.  But the franchise will keep limping on until Infinity Ward and Activision go belly-up.  Which I honestly wish would happen, because then maybe the big AAA companies would realize that making unique products should come first.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s look at the trailer for this latest entry into the hyper-action, Bayhem franchise.

First things first – fuck this trailer for using a shitty cover of an Elton John song.  You haven’t earned the right to touch anything from him, much less make your own shitty version of it.

Okay, so we got space ships coming down and blowing shit up all over the place in one of those cliche security-cam footage sorts of montages.  Alright.  So this in the future.  Got that.  Then we hear through cliched news-clip style that this is some unprecedented attack from some kind of human force that isn’t on Earth.  Where are they?  Is this like Gundam, where it is some colonial empire?  That could be kind of cool.  Is it some kind of Mars colonial force?  That could also be cool.  Are we in the middle of a war for independence?  And we’re fighting against them?  Not gonna lie, there’s a lot of potential here for a cool game.  But then you see the CoD logo and you realize the truth – this is likely going to suck.  Why?

First, because the Call of Duty franchise hasn’t told anything approaching a smart story since Modern Warefare 2.  And even that wasn’t perfect.  It was still pretty Bayhem, but in a way that worked because of the genuine tension and the use of quiet-time.  Man, remember when there were quite moments in CoD games?  Haven’t had that for ages!  A FPS game about being on the side of keeping an extra-planetary colonial force fighting for independence subjugated to the reigning government(s) of this world could be cool.  I honestly want to play a game like that.  That sounds pretty fucking awesome.  Especially if we could get some character growth along the way.  Hell, a game like that would open itself up for sequels.  Like seeing the war as it goes along.  Maybe the mechanics wouldn’t change too much, but you’d get to see this story evolve.  Have it be kind of bittersweet.  Maybe you get to make some choices about if you stay on the side of the Earth forces or go and fight for the Colonials.  Who wouldn’t want to see a game like that?!

But then you remember – this is CoD.  This is a yearly-franchise pumping monster that has to make sure they get a new game out every year.  And they can’t be too interesting or unique.  They have to follow their formula to a fault.  Instead of being really interesting, we get the same cookie-cutter experience. I honestly want a game about a war for independence between two unfathomably-powerful militaries.  Maybe have some quiet moments where we get to truly understand how horrific this war could truly be, when the weapons of mass destruction can be used on a scale of wiping out whole continents, like with asteroid or colony drops or something.  Again, looking at series like the original Gundam.

Oh, and to make matters worse, we get to see that Infinity Ward and Activision are giving their audience the finger.  Do you want a remastered version of Modern Warfare?!  You bet your ass you do!  How do you get it?!  By paying an extra ten dollars to buy CoD: IN SPACE!  For real, you can’t get the game separately.  You have to buy this other game and pay more money to get a game that CoD fans actually want.  Talk about a kick to the balls.

I guess it all comes down to what I think about this game, though.  Let’s leave the stupidity of this move with Modern Warfare to the rest of nerd culture at large.  Like the rest of the more recent CoD games, this one looks like another cookie-cutter game that has a premise that could be the most unique one yet.  But will all eventually just devolve into nothing approaching unique.  Though, the irony isn’t lost on me that CoD: IN SPACE has space battles, while the new Battlefront didn’t.  Suck on that, fans of the franchise!  Oh, and the next one won’t either.  EA means for that to be their new yearly-franchise.  AAA gaming has kind of devolved into shit, hasn’t it?

Initial Verdict
5 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick