Saturday, 14 November 2009

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Off to get the new Call of Duty today (because at heart I'm just a little boy). I was watching the review of it last night on Newsnight Review - it was rather bizarre, while I haven't seen the controversial level that's got so much coverage, most* of the reviewers (who also appeared to be unfamiliar with computer games in general) seemed to object to the overall violence (in a first person modern warfare shooter!) because, as far as I could tell, killing people 'is like bad, m'kay?'

Now I totally agree that killing people is bad, but I'm pretty unclear how computer simulated violence has quite the same moral ramifications as actually killing someone**, particularly when our reviewers didn't extend their objection to all those films about killing people, or films with other morally dubious things like rape, or infidelity***, or just being mean.

I suppose you could make a more specific objection that in computer games you are taking on an active role rather than being a passive observer - this seems to have been behind some of the objections to the controversial level in Modern Warfare 2 - but the reviewers didn't actually seem to make that point. But if that was the direction you were going, arguing that taking part in simulated violence has some negative impact on an individuals moral integrity (does that include paintball, laser quest, archery even?) then why should we not extrapolate that out to other immoral acts as I've intimated above? And why are actors not faced with such opprobium for playing roles in films about, for example, incest - roles where they are getting a whole lot more involved that someone bashing the plastic controller on their games console?

At one point Paul Morley bemoans that there has been this divide between gamers and non-gamers with the latter dismissing the condemnation of the former because they 'just don't get it' - sadly I think the latter are correct, non-gamers seem to be condemning something they don't understand and fear because of that - Morley seems to be making a pretty penny watching and writing about X-Factor at the moment, I wonder does he feel morally degraded through his complicity in that nasty piece of voyeurism?

ETA: This is hilarious:
Video games depicting war have come under fire for flouting laws governing armed conflicts.

Human rights groups played various games to see if any broke humanitarian laws that govern what is a war crime.

The study condemned the games for violating laws by letting players kill civilians, torture captives and wantonly destroy homes and buildings.

Hmm, perhaps the authors ought to concentrate on having real life violations of humanitarin law prosecuted first, before defending out pixelated friends.

* Admittedly one of them thought it was great

** You also have to wonder whether the thousands of people being blown to bits in wars around the world might be worthier of our defence before we start helping out the little pixelated pretend people from being killed by by teenage boys


Neuroskeptic said...

I haven't got MW2 yet - the original was OK, but pretty generic, no more than a bog-standard FPS if you ask me. You should get Dragon Age instead.

As for the anti-MW2 crowd, I think what they don't understand is that just because a game involves, say, shooting people with guns, doesn't mean that in order to play it you need to want to shoot real people with real guns. Just as you don't need to be greedy and obsessed with money to play Monopoly. People play games because of the game aspect - the setting and plot are just trappings. (Proof of this is the fact that Unreal Tournament and Quake 3 were enormously successful games despite having no plots at all and being completely unrealistic).

pj said...

Just finished it - not too bad, story is a bit convoluted/bizarre.

I quite enjoyed the first one, very linear but allowing some interesting set piece battles and missions (e.g. the sniping one) with good atmosphere - very short though.

I never play RPG-type games because I just don't have the time - these short modern warfare FPS games (played on easy settings) are just about do-able.

I found the controversial 'No Russian' level pretty un-dramatic - not least because the graphics and game-play is still a far cry from realistic - but it doesn't quite make sense thinking about it rationally - although the denouement is vaguely interesting from a story-telling point of view, and makes more of a play of the moral ambiguity of the whole thing.