Friday, July 31, 2015

Video Game Thoughts – Call Of Duty's Appeal

Let’s talk about Call of Duty. Specifically, the Modern Warfare series – America The Video Game. Basically, evil people from Russia want to start World War 3 and change the world. I could be wrong, and I most likely am, but no one plays Call of Duty for the story. They play it for the killing!

The thing about the Modern Warfare series is that you have to have some patriotic love for America. Call of Duty most likely makes people feel like big damn heroes when finishing the game. “FUCK YEAH!” players seem to say, “WE STOPPED TERRORISM BY BLOWING SHIT UP! FUCK YOU, TERRORISTS!” Finishing the campaign of the Modern Warfare series gives you a sense of patriotism for either the US or the UK.  Yeah, about that… I lived in The Philippines for 20 years and that country doesn’t even make me feel a bit patriotic. Now I live in Canada for 2 years now and I still don’t feel patriotic. Perhaps that’s just me though. 

This is what deconstruction games like Spec Ops: The Line teach us about – that there are two sides to every conflict, that you – the hero – might actually be causing more damage than good. Sure you killed those Russian bad guys, Modern Warfare player, but did you consider the kind of damage you did to the surroundings like that small business? The owners invested their savings on that and you just shot 67 rounds of AK-47 bullets onto their walls. They were saving up for their daughter’s college tuition!

Okay, maybe that’s not the kind of specific thoughts that Spec Ops: The Line wanted to convey. Sure, you’re being a hero in the country you work for but what about all the lives you killed, you monster?! How dare you find fun in this battlefield!

The best way to play Modern Warfare is to turn your brain off and I don’t mean that as a derogatory way. I treat it as a mindless shooter. Enjoy the ride and don’t bother questioning anything because, god forbid, you want to have fun in a video game!

Though Modern Warfare does try to grip you emotionally. In the first Modern Warfare game, you have a player character die, struggling to walk in the middle of a cauterized city after his helicopter crashed from a nuclear blast. His comrades and a ton of civilians are killed in that blast and all his efforts are for nothing as he dies alone in scorched earth.  In Modern Warfare 2, after your character goes through a super difficult mission of getting information from the bad guy’s computer, he gets shot by his general and burned alive. We know he’s alive because we still get to play as him as he’s being burned alive. In Modern Warfare 3, Soap – a character that you played as in previous iterations of the game – dies after falling from a clock tower. Okay, maybe the emotional factor does try too much. You can’t have an emotional moment when it’s expected in every game and when you’re kicking so much ass.

I finished Modern Warfare 2 and 3 recently and I still consider those as my favorites because they’re basically summer blockbuster action movies.  One mission in the second game has you driving high speed in snowmobiles while going down a mountain and dodging damn trees who try to give you a hug. To finish off said mission, you get to jump across a huge gap in the mountain and land on the other side like a badass doing parkour.

Spoiler alert, I even enjoyed the final mission of Modern Warfare 3. I loved taking the role of a character in a Juggernaut armor and destroying the lives and faces of a few hundred armed guards. And you know what? I didn’t care about who I killed. I was in armor, shooting a Rambo-like machinegun, with dozens of dead people who were in my way. This wasn’t the message that Spec Ops: The Line gave me that I should feel ashamed about all the killing and I should feel guilty about the harm I’m causing. However, Call of Duty made me realize that blowing shit up and killing people IS FUN.

Maybe that’s the message people should just take from the Call of Duty series – that it’s just fun. It’s not about telling a story. It’s about shooting people who want to shoot you as well. Forget the politics and the message that it’s trying to give. Whenever you die in the game, you are greeted with an anti-war quote that basically tells you “there are no winners in war and it only ends when you’re dead”. It’s ironic to get an anti-war quote when you’re having so much fun giving people a few more eye sockets using bullets from Mr. Assault Rifle.

Maybe we gamers should stop complaining about how Call of Duty is dull and shallow. Perhaps it’s best to see it as the McDonalds of video games – no nutritional value but we still devour what they deliver because what they deliver is great! Modern Warfare does not have a deep and engaging story unlike Spec Ops: The Line, Suikoden V, or Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII but that doesn’t mean we should dispose of Call of Duty entirely. It’s fun, it’s shallow, and why bother changing the formula?