Arts & Culture

Oh, for the love of C.O.D.

written by Dalhousie Gazette Staff
December 6, 2010 1:00 pm

Matthew Ritchie, Staff Contributor

On Nov. 9, Call of Duty: Black Ops broke the record for highest sales of a video game in a single day. The game sold more than 5.6 million copies in the U.K and North America.

This is pretty impressive.

But some people aren’t as impressed by this figure, as most normal adults don’t want video games involving the assassination of world leaders winding up in the hands of their children.

Call of Duty is a series of first person and third person shooter video games with story-lines based around past world wars and modern warfare (although facts are sometimes distorted to create a better story). The game involves strategic planning as you sneak around, battling through campaigns and shooting enemies with a variety of weapons.

So what’s the big deal, you say? You’ve been blowing up your friends with remote mines since 1996 with the release of N64’s Goldeneye 007 (a game that also happens to have a re-release this month). But with the release of Black Ops,  two main concerns have led to international uproar.

The first has to do with the advertisements. On the television commercial, a number of real life human beings are shown battling each other with various weapons. Images include business women, a concierge at a hotel, a chef, and comedian Jimmy Kimell launching a grenade at a helicopter. There is also a chubby 10-year-old girl shooting at a door frame, before a hippie wearing sandals kicks it in.

Concern was voiced over a little girl shooting a hand gun while looking positively joyful. This was meant to reflect the wide range of video game fans, and to suggest the game’s appeal to people of all ages, but some people took the image more seriously than others.

Posts littered the internet from websites and news agencies defaming the advertisement for its content and the tagline “There is a soldier in all of us.” A lot of people took offence to this and claimed it promoted violence in youth, even though it is illegal to purchase the game in North America unless you are over the age of 18.

Cuba also voiced some concern with Black Ops. Set in the Cold War from the perspective of U.S. troops, one campaign involves the assassination of Fidel Castro. As the Huffington Post reports, players run through the streets of Havana before finally gunning down Castro in an attempt to overthrow the spread of communism (it should also be noted that in the storyline Castro has a body double and survives, later torturing captive American soldiers).

The Cuban governmental website Cubadebate.org recently released a post saying that the game is “perverse” and “glorifies the illegal assassination attempts the United States government planned against the Cuban leader.” The post goes on to claim that “it stimulates sociopathic attitudes in North American children and adolescents.”

Cuba is a little late to the pity party though, as the assassination of Castro was already a plot for a game in 1993.Guerilla War was released by arcade giants SNK for Nintendo, and experienced moderate sales and fanfare. Although the game was set on a remote Caribbean island, it was pretty clear that the main boss was Fidel in military regalia, driving a tank and launching bombs as your all-American army of one took down the rebel forces. But at the time of its release, no one took major offence at this game.

One could argue that this is because Black Ops, unlike Guerilla War, has a highly realistic playing experience. The graphics are certainly advanced, but this is not the problem.

As The Christian Science Monitor reports, the game is actually less violent than its predecessors and has a richer storyline than the previous titles. You can even go into the game’s options and cut out the gore and vulgar language for a younger audience.

So, how can a game with less violence, a better storyline, and better controls gain so much controversy?

It goes back to the first day sales. Anything popular will gain criticism, especially when major news organizations like CNN and The Wall Street Journal are covering it. Much in the same way that Avatar gained controversy for its story of a strong white man rescuing a legion of aboriginals from destruction in their homeland, people have found reasons to hate this game. And everyone seems to be throwing in their two cents.

Is this game violent? Kind of. But for the past seven years teenagers have been tracking down hookers and cutting them in half with chainsaws in games like Grand Theft Auto.

If you like this kind of video game or are a fan of the series, sales and critics alike can safely point you in the direction of Call of Duty: Black Ops, this year’s smash hit video game.

For the rest of the world: The Christian Science Monitor reports its overwhelming approval. If they dig it, anybody can.

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