Today marks the release of Call of Duty: Black Ops. The latest product of the popular Call of Duty gaming franchise, Black Ops puts the player as a first-person shooter for the US in the 1960s. The gamer embodies operative Alex Mason as he secretly travels into Soviet territories (like Russia, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam) investigating a chemical weapon and, of course, killing enemies along the way.
Much to the dismay of moms nationwide, Call of Duty: Black Ops is violent. Players use several types of artillery like the M16, AK47, and a new H510 shotgun. A few missions involve attempting to assassinate major world leaders. At one point, main character Mason goes as far as to strangle an enemy while the man is drowning.
What makes Call of Duty unique, though, is the incredibly detailed plot that accompanies the violence. Many may view the game as senseless violence, but defendants could remind others that the concept of shooting without question crosses gaming genres. Rayman Raving Rabbids is a hilarious and popular Wii game where the player shoots toilet plungers at crazed rabbits as they try to attack him. The game is for ages 3 and up. Call of Duty, at least, presents a complex story that involves defense of country and accountability.
Black Ops refers to the type of mission that is off-record and behind enemy lines. Often there is little way to prove accountability or war crimes from a black ops mission. Modern examples of black ops missions include:
- Bush's authorization of CIA black operation in Iran in order to prevent the country from succeeding in nuclear arms development.
- General Stanley McChrystal's authorization of operations to track and kill insurgent leaders in Iraq during America's occupation.
Black Ops is no Modern Warfare. Here players complete missions that are clearly inspired by (but not necessarily based on) historical events. In 2007, the CIA declassified Cold War era records that detail the US's involvement in illegal domestic surveillance, assassination attempts, wiretapping of American citizens.
This is where the cause-y angles come into play. Players will receive similar representation of the troops, mental health, and politics of the era that he or she also consumes from movies, TV, and books. Amidst the entertainment, the player is reminded of the large stake associated with assassination attempts on leaders like Fidel Castro. The game takes players into landmark Cold War conflicts like the Bay of Pigs Invasion in Cuba or the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. In terms of mental health, the hero Mason is held as a prisoner of war and psychologically affected by the Soviets.
As games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops get closer to the complex realities of war and peace, hopefully players will become more aware of the cause and why support and action need to be taken around the issues of troops, politics, and peace.
What can you do?
Submit a project that honors troops, like building a local memorial.
Do you have leftover Halloween candy in good condition? Send candy to the troops.
Don't let fancy graphics distract you from what will happen to soldiers when they return home.