The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

In Response to CSMonitor’s Condemnation of CODMW2

Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer

ImageIf you happened to be one of the millions of people watching the Sunday Night Football game between the Steelers and Chargers on NBC this past weekend, and if you happened to stick around for all of the commercials, chances are you saw the debut ad for the upcoming video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.  If you haven't seen it, don't worry, you'll be able to watch it below.  As far as video game ads on TV go, this one is pretty awesome, IMHO.  But not everyone saw it that way.  Some even objected to the ad.  The folks over at the Christian Science Monitor were highly critical of the ad and the game asking in an article posted on their website on Monday, "Does the game go too far? Is it offensive?" 

Read on for my response.


Okay, here's the ad as it aired:

CSMonitor points out, rather accusingly, that "the gallant mansion reduced to rubble doesn’t belong to some crazed separatist dictator hellbent on all kinds of nefarious acts. Instead, it’s the White House. The scenes of post-apocalyptic scenes of carnage play out not in some fictional town in eastern Europe, but in Washington D.C. itself."

First off CSMonitor, maybe you should proof-read your articles before posting them.  "Scenes of post-apocalyptic scenes"?  Really?  Secondly, I'll grant you there are images of a blasted, war-torn Washington D.C., but to call it "post-apocalyptic" is a bit of a stretch, even as hyperbole goes.  And let's give credit where credit is due.  Fallout 3 did more to present gamers with a truly post-apocalyptic DC than what audiences were treated to in this ~2 minute ad.

And while CSMonitor actually acknowledges that this isn't the first display of capitol destruction, they highlight 1997's summer blockbuster Independence Day, they state that "this is one of the first times such striking imagery has surfaced since 9/11, when the idea of widespread destruction on US soil was suddenly thrust into reality."  Oh really?

May I draw the attention of the folks at the Christian Science Monitor to any one of the following:

The Sum of All Fears (2002) PG-13
The Day After Tomorrow (2004) PG-13
War of the Worlds (2005) PG-13
I Am Legend (2007) PG-13
The Happening (2008) R
Knowing  (2009) PG-13
2012 (2009) PG-13

Notice that all of these films were released *after* 2001.  The main point of their argument and judgment against CODMW2 is that it is "one of the first times" imagery of destruction on US soil has been depicted since the terrorist attacks on 9/11.  To that I would submit this ad for 2012:

Here's one for The Sum of All Fears:

And War of the Worlds:

Looks to me like there's some pretty "striking imagery" in these ads.  There's probably a whole lot more in the actual movies, especially 2012, given that the destruction of the *world* plays a central role in the film.  Wait, what was another complaint about this game?  Oh yeah, that "the destruction of a major US city – in near photo-realistic detail – plays a central role."  Just about every film up there, each with a multi-million dollar advertising budget, each seen by millions of people either in a theater or at home on DVD or television, features some level of widespread destruction and depictions of post-apocalyptic America, and yes, in near photo-realistic detail.

To ignore all of these movies, not to mention television shows like Jericho, and single out this one ad for this one video game is really what has gone too far.  This article is what should be viewed as offensive.  I am of that opinion as a gamer, and I'd like to point out specifically why I feel that way.

I find this article offensive because I believe it insults the intelligence and maturity of the audience this game is intended for.  CODMW2 has been rated M by the ESRB (the MPAA of video games), meaning that it is only suitable for individuals at least 17 years of age.  I would point out to CSMonitor that of all of those disaster-related movies I listed above, only one of them was rated R.  Now, is it true that there may have been individuals under the age of 17 watching that football game that saw the ad?  Sure.  And I'm sure there will be plenty more that see similar ads in the weeks to come as we near the release of the game.  But I'm sure there have been just as many (and very likely many more) that have seen ads for those movies.  If CODMW2 and its ad are "offensive," shouldn't the CSMonitor condemn those movies as the same?  Shouldn't they be even more outraged by them, as they can be viewed by younger individuals, and with larger ad campaigns are more likely to be seen by minors?

Furthermore, I get the impression that CSMonitor is especially judgmental of this ad because it is a video game.  Because 1) it's interactive and 2) it will be played by children.  With regard to the first point, depicting the destruction of a US city doesn't mean the player will actually engage in such activity.  Given that gamers will play as members of the US military I'm guessing they'll be fighting in defense of the country against those doing violence against it; couldn't that be seen in a positive light? As a cathartic exercise?  

Addressing the second point, I realize the knee-jerk reaction of some is to think that all video games are intended for kids, or if not intended for, may still very well be played by kids.  Again, I would point out that this game (and any other given a M rating) is intended for mature individuals over the age of 17.  If you feel the imagery in this game is too striking, too graphic for your child, you have a very simple task ahead of you. 

 Be a parent and don't let them play this game.

To reiterate my point, the fact that CSMonitor is blatantly ignoring all the depictions of widespread destruction and violence in media today (both the fiction in movies and TV and the reality covered by today's ratings-driven 24 news cycle) and harp about a video game (and not even the video game but a 2-minute ad for a video game) is utterly ridiculous.  Maybe the CSMonitor should work a little harder to realize its mission statement of providing "objective, well-documented coverage that goes beyond the headlines to explain how news affects us all."  They've certainly failed at it with this article.