Honesty is Controversial

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So in the new Call of Duty game your first task is to wade into a crowded civilian airport and kill shit relentlessly. Every last mom, pop and 2 kids on their way to Sochi (I think the massacre takes place in Russia? I can’t be sure) is supposed to get it within the first five minutes. That barrel can’t go cold. Get ’em.

Since I’m positive the suits at Activision have exactly as much backbone as their bean-counters tell them they have, this is probably some sort of calculated marketing stunt. They are relying on the (pretty safe) assumption that this sequence will be seen as ground-breaking, scandalous and the rest of that breathless nonsense. Is this assumption really correct, though? Is this sequence such a radical departure from the normal FPS toolbox that it’s going to absolutely change everything? Or is this kind of mindless slaughter perfectly in line with the most basic moral touchstone of the modern FPS?

Let’s back up for a minute and compare this ‘controversy’ with the non-controversy that ensued following the release of the last Call of Duty, a game in which he who was quickest to zap the raghead with the biggest gun was the one most assured of survival in the end. Why is that kind of inculcated murderous impulse blameless and this murderous impulse not? They’re both on the same decrepit moral level, aren’t they?

The answer lies in the fact that FPS enemies are always on the same plane regardless of how they’ve been skinned or what the ancillary narrative tells you they are supposed to be. You are never supposed to question what it is you’re actually doing, you are supposed to kill anything you’re told to kill, reload, find the key and move on. And if you have trouble doing that then it’s your fault for not being able to fit into the violent and absurd straitjacket of the ‘modern’ FPS. Who is actually catching your lead matters about as much as the trash decals applied to the floors of the levels. This sequence couldn’t fit in with the rest of them any better. 

In fact as far as clarity goes this scene has the drop on probably every other FPS game this year. Where else are you going to see the moral poverty of the FPS totally stripped of any kind of half-assed excuse and laid this bare? Which other game is going to provoke you to think about what it is you’re actually doing when you kill people virtually? This game may not do that for the vast majority of those who will be exposed to it, but I’m betting nothing else will even try. 

 

3 Responses to Honesty is Controversial

  1. Chris says:

    Well, I think the difference here is that everyone you're gunning down have zero hostile intentions against you. Call of Duty 4 has the excuse of “If you don't shoot back, you will die.” The moment bullets start flying, they're gone screaming and running for their lives.

    Then again, that argument dies right when you bring up any sandbox game that lets you do exactly the things I just mentioned. But you know, I just, dunno, the way it's so frankly and bluntly presented just rendered me speechless, to be honest. With a game like GTAIV, or Fallout 3, or whatever, the violence is presented in some weird satirical, comical way, whereas here, it just, yeah.

    I'm thinking about things. Good job video game, I guess.

  2. Berkut says:

    Loved your 4th paragraph. In Doom I never have a problem with killing everything that moves because they are demons and the whole game has an arcade feeling – almost like a sport. It feels to me like cleaning your inner demons – it's fantasy or at least abstraction.

    But with newer game with realistic graphics and a story I (and some of my friends) am starting to get a problem that your only option is to kill people. They are trying to be “realistic” but I don't like their reality and I especially don't like that the only way to progress in the game is to stick to their unlikable story.

  3. Berkut says:

    Loved your 4th paragraph. In Doom I never have a problem with killing everything that moves because they are demons and the whole game has an arcade feeling – almost like a sport. It feels to me like cleaning your inner demons – it's fantasy or at least abstraction.

    But with newer game with realistic graphics and a story I (and some of my friends) am starting to get a problem that your only option is to kill people. They are trying to be “realistic” but I don't like their reality and I especially don't like that the only way to progress in the game is to stick to their unlikable story.

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