My take on the ‘Modern Warfare 2’ controversy

Gaming, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

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This was a big week for video game fans. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 hit the shelves breaking records for not just video games, but almost every sort of entertainment release. Over 2 million people were online playing the game simultaneously on Thursday. Like any big release, there’s a certain amount of controversy with CoD: MW2.

Staying as spoiler-free as possible, during the course of the game’s storyline a group of criminals commit a terrorist attack and the player, in the role of an American soldier who’s undercover with the group, can take part in this act where numerous innocent civilians are injured and killed. This footage leaked before the game was released and people were outraged.

Having spent the last few days playing through the game’s story mode, I have to say that the outrage is overblown and unjustified. First, even before beginning the game, players are give an option to skip the potentially offensive level if they choose to. Second, and more importantly, despite the shocking nature of the scene, there’s nothing gratuitous about it. The event serves to further the complex story that developer Infinity Ward is attempting to tell. The overall story deals with the hard choices to be made when fighting global terrorism.

This examination of moral grey areas is a time-honored theme in numerous thought-provoking works of art, from literature, to television, to movies. I think far too many people are still under the mistaken assumption that video games are just for kids. Thus when they see adult themes presented in a medium they reserve for children, they can’t place it in the correct context. Comic books often suffer from the same misunderstanding.

It’s especially perplexing because the game is rated ‘M,’ meaning only those 17 and older should be playing it. As graphic as the scene is question is, it’s certainly less shocking than many R-rated movies today.  Hopefully, this is simply a growing pain the industry must go through on the way to being taken seriously. Once people realize that modern games are capable of telling intricate and mature stories, things should be easier for everyone.

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