The true reality of War is more than a Video Game
9th November 2010 saw the release of one of the biggest video games of the year, Call of Duty: Black Ops. Black Ops is the sequel to the biggest selling game in history, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which grossed more than $1 Billion in sales. As the sales figures suggest the video games industry is big business, with the highest selling games earning more than some Hollywood films.
Fans queued overnight to get their hands on the game at midnight, so they could spend the rest of the night playing it. This kind of frenzy is typical of a new video game release and ‘first person shooters’ are amongst the most popular genre.
Games such as Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops all have a “good v evil” storylines. The evil will differ from game to game, ranging from the Germans in World War II, the Russian Mafia or Communists during the Cold War, as is the case in Black Ops. Some of these games will allow the player to take the role of either side as was the case in Medal of Honor which allowed you to play as the Taliban, however after complaints the name Taliban was changed to “opposing force”.
Modern Warfare 2 hit the headlines for its sales figures but also courted controversy over its storyline. It allowed the player to partake in the killing of civilians in a now infamous airport scene of the game. Even the then Labour MP Keith Vaz got involved in the debate calling for the game to be banned, stating that he was “absolutely shocked by it’s violence”.
Earlier this year there was outrage when WikiLeaks released cockpit footage from an American Apache helicopter in Iraq. It showed the needless killing of an Iraqi journalist and other civilians including children. What was so shocking about the video was the manner in which those shooting at the civilians seemed detached from reality, as if in fact they were doing nothing more than playing a console game.
The discussion goes beyond whether to ban console games such as Black Ops. It clearly shows that there is a near obsession with creating a simplistic , desensitised version of war. A version of war that the masses will pay for and spend hours playing. Spending more time engrossed in a make believe heroic battle than thinking about the consequences of the flawed foreign policy that many of these games are based on.
The real world is not so easy to understand, when real “under the radar” organisations such as Blackwater engage in Black Ops, it does not leave the world a better place. In fact it causes havoc and mayhem as is clearly seen in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The rewards for success are not in game achievements and online fame, but they are oil and mineral riches. Here success is not built on blood and gore for entertainment, it is built upon the broken bodies of children and lost hope for generations to come.
There is no doubt Western society buries its head in the sand on a great number of issues that challenge its comfort zone. The average Joe Public sees little value in fretting over something happening thousands of miles away, and this is not just limited to war. The only time there seems to be any level of interest is when there is some entertainment value to it. People would rather create a world where the policies and methods of their governments abroad are depicted in the glory of fictional heroes, than accept the Western worldview is flawed.
However any notion of questioning the motives of real world policies are often met with looks of boredom and disinterest. There is no appetite for war in the real world.
Maybe these games should allow the player to be the innocent victims, the ones where your house is bombed , your father is killed and you are disfigured for life. This is true reality of modern warfare and black ops, not the nicely packaged video games on the shelves of the high street.