Picking apart the hype of new and classic video games.

Modern Warfare’s “No Russian” left holding the bag. Again.

In the wake of a massive suicide bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport on Monday, Russian officials and media outlets have linked the attack to last year’s hotly debated Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 mission “No Russian.”

The mission has the player assume the role of an undercover anti-terrorism agent who must take part in a machine gun rampage through an unnamed Russian airport, gunning down civilians, security staff and police in order to maintain his cover alongside four accomplices. The scene ends with your character’s cover being blown at which point you are shot and left as evidence that the American government sponsored the attack, sparking World War III.

Follow this link to see the full mission yourself. (Link is really, really not safe for work, kids, the impressionable ect.)

Russia’s government sponsored news outlet Russia Today quotes Fox News analyst Walid Phares as saying the level could potentially aid in planning a terrorist attack.

“I think those who have been radicalized already — let’s suppose in this case jihadists, Al Qaeda or [some] other kind — they look at the games and say these games will serve them to train,” Phares said in the report.

Before going further into a touchy subject, I want it to be clear I do empathize with the loss experienced by the people of Russia, but feel we need to take a step back and look at this objectively.

Monday’s attack was a suicide bombing, not a mass shooting. The only thing the real and fictional scenarios have in common is the Russian airport setting.

MW2’s airport is not based on the floor plan of the Domodedovo airport, nor does it show how the player is able to get past airport security, it simply fades in to the character exiting an elevator amidst a crowd of people.

The only information I could glean from playing this level was that shooting machine guns at a crowd will hurt lots of people, something that was readily apparent to the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attack a year prior to the release of the game. So much the training material argument.

At the time of MW2’s release this mission created considerable international controversy from both industry and international media sources for being in poor taste, but having experienced the level myself I have to disagree for the following reason:

I was really, really uncomfortable with what I was doing.

The remainder of the game portrays hundreds of military guys shooting at other military guys in what most would consider a “fair fight,” but seeing this hardware turned on civilians, the amount of destruction and chaos caused in this level, forced me to stop and think about what I had just done.

Seeing that level of destruction amidst a full on battle is expected in this kind of game, but transplanting that level of violence into an environment so familiar to all of us really drove home just how gruesome violence in the modern era can be and how our morality as a species has gone from black and white to bloody shades of gray.

It should be noted that following 2009’s “No Russian” debate, the Call of Duty franchise toned down the controversy with this year’s release of Call of Duty Black Ops, a traditional military-vs-military affair set during the cold war.

But as a gamer looking for some emotional punch in my story lines I need to ask, how else can you make a player stop and reflect on the real-life implications of the action portrayed on the screen without making us not just watch, but participate in it ourselves?

If any readers can think of other titles that find a less heavy-handed way to meet the same ends, pop them in the comments section.


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