Moral Outrage

I just caught this story over on slashdot. The details are quite a bit fuzzy here, but the general premise is that the new Modern Warfare 2 game has scenes of terrorism. This is a bit more than just a cut scene, though, as it appears the player is actively participating in the action. Keep in mind, though, that this game is, as yet, unreleased. There is no real context here, so we don’t know why the player is participating in these acts. [Update] As I’m writing this, there have been some updates. Apparently Activision UK has authenticated the footage, claiming it’s an optional scenario.

Video footage is being taken down very rapidly by Activision, the publisher, so good luck finding live footage. At the time of writing, this site does have some rather fuzzy video.

The outrage is obviously centered around the terrorism portrayed in the video. From what I’ve seen, it looks like the player is participating in a terroristic act, that of killing civilians in an airport. The video shows mass carnage with no remorse, shooting people in the back, shooting civilians as they flee or attempt to help others, and tossing grenades into masses of people. Here is a still shot from the video:

Let’s keep in mind, however, that we’re talking about a mature rated game. This is NOT a game for children. But people are “outraged” anyway. And I have to ask, why? Let’s think about this for a bit. First, there have been claims throughout the years that games de-sensitize you from violence. That games are “murder simulators,” and other such insanity. Yet, after this footage was leaked, we hear outrage from gamers about the improper nature of it and how it makes some people feel uncomfortable. They wonder if Infinity Ward, the creators, are going to far.

I don’t see a problem here, though. This is a game designed to be as realistic as possible. And guess what, people die in real life. There are terrorist acts that actually involve real terrorists. So viewing the action through the guise of a terrorist is a perfectly valid way to tell a story. They do it in books, and they do it in movies. This just ups the interactivity a bit more. And, if it makes the player feel uncomfortable in the process, then it’s doing a damn good job, isn’t it. How about we make the player think a bit. Let’s show them how things really are. Not everything is a fantasy game, we can use games as a teaching tool too. Learning how the terrorists see things, what choices they make and how quickly they sometimes make them is important to understanding them.

I applaud Infinity Ward for their choices. From what I’ve read, it sounds like they’re doing it in a very responsible nature. I may pick this game up just to “speak with my wallet” as it were. Just to bring more innovation and daring to the industry. We need something new, something exciting, and yes, something that upsets our oh-so-delicate sensibilities. Bravo.

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