Under the Radar

Relax, Professor. It’s Just a Game


The video game site Kotaku just published an article entitled The Trouble with Call of Duty’s Scary New War of the Future.  Okay, I figured this was going to be a piece about Call of Duty: Black Ops II, the not-yet-released follow-up game to the ridiculously popular Call of Duty: Black Ops.

A departure from the original, Kennedy-era warfare, maybe the article would mention a few things about the more nightmarish aspects of the battlefields future war fighters will face in this century: nanotech, smart weapons – not just bombs and aircraft but now projectiles fired from rifles – UAVs, and that really creepy dog thing I keep seeing everywhere.  However, before the very first sentence is finished the piece is derailed by the author, Professor Paolo Pedercini, bitching about how “the gaming press diligently started to operate as an extension of Activision’s PR department.”


You mean the same way every major news outlet acts as an extension of Apple’s PR department each time they release even the most minor trinket?  So, this is going to be an angry article about Activision receiving free advertising, then?  But…I thought it was about the scary new war of the future. I’m confused. Then again, I’m not a professor at Carnegie Mellon. I’m just a guy who plays games. Oh, did I mention I’m also a combat veteran of a modern battlefield called Iraq?  You may have heard of it, it was kind of a big deal for a few years. But I digress. You were going to tell me about the war of the future, Professor.

Here the Professor makes another sharp turn to the left – pun intended – by spewing his vitriolic hatred for Lt. Colonel Oliver North USMC (ret) and the Reagan Administration.  He further digresses into a 134-word history of the Iran-Contra affair, finally wrapping up this section of the…article…on the future of war, was it? He referred to North as a “Media-stuntman for Activision.”  Nice turn of phrase there.

For one brief paragraph the good Professor goes back to talking about the actual game before twisting and turning once more into something that resembles the title of the article but is burdened and stinking of his personal political leanings.  He talks of the morality and legality – he actually uses the phrase democratic oversight!

I swear! It’s true! Go look! I’ll wait – of Real World black operations, and conspiracy theories worthy of an Art Bell program, the best of which is asserting that the Department of Defense is directly and evilly behind the production of games for use as propaganda and recruiting material. Or in the Professor’s very own words: “I’m talking about a rather new kind of propaganda here. The post-9/11 triumphalist rhetoric of America’s Army, Kuma War or Full Spectrum Warrior (just to mention other games set in contemporary or near-future scenarios).”

While a certain aspect of that is true, the Army did develop and market America’s Army as a public relations and recruiting device and Full Spectrum Warrior was conceived as a training program using commercial gaming platforms, I don’t sense any post-9/11 triumphalist rhetoric in these games or an evil plot behind them to trick game playing teenagers into joining the military to become mindless killing machines for the corrupt decadent West.

It’s at this point that I don’t even know what to make of the article anymore. Is it about the upcoming Call of Duty Black Ops II game? Activision’s capitalization of free advertisements thanks to the video game media? Oh, and let me point out that Professor Pedercini doesn’t miss the opportunity to plug his own game. Is it a condemnation of the Iran- Contra affair? A personal attack piece on Oliver North? The morality and legality of using Special Forces in operations that take place without the public’s knowledge, or a conspiracy by the Department of Defense to use games to recruit young people for the military?  I’m really confused here.

This is what I think:  If you’re going to title your article, “The Trouble with Call of Duty’s Scary New War of the Future,” stick to that topic. Talk about how the new wars of the future are going to be a scary place. Hell, talk about how the current wars are a damn terrifying place. Ever been faced with a field full of trash and dead animals not knowing if any of those things could suddenly decide to blow up? I have and the fear it causes can be mind numbing. Leave your political ideological baggage behind for a moment. Believe me, the target demographic of this game doesn’t care about the political and moral ramifications that may or may not be behind this game. The average gamer wants to shoot really cool guns, see shit blow up, and get a high score. They don’t give a rat’s ass about your navel gazing.

I’ll close with a friendly piece of advice from Ronald D. Moore, the creator of the reimagined science fiction television show Battlestar Galactica,.  When fans and writers began getting wrapped around the axel about the science of the show he created Moore’s Law. The first tenet was “It’s just a show, I should really just relax.” I suggest you do the same, Professor. The purpose of the game, of any game for that matter, is for enjoyment. Pro tip: that’s why they are called games. The Call of Duty franchise is not a documentary. Its purpose is to tell a story and let one live in that world for a little bit.  And blow shit up.

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