Modern Warfare 3 'London Scene' Isn't Controversial, It's Realistic
Last week, I reported on a "controversial" sequence in the upcoming Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. When a leaked video popped up showing the scene, media outlets jumped on it, claiming it was more controversial than the "No Russian" level in Modern Warfare 2, which had players open fire on a bunch of innocent civilians in a Russian airport.
The level in Modern Warfare 3 is quite different than that, but has still elicited the same response from viewers. The majority of it seems to be outrage and that it was only included as shock value to top the previous Modern Warfare 2 sequence.
Before I continue, let me explain the "Modern Warfare 3 girl" video clip that was leaked on the internet. ***SPOILER*** The video starts with a soldier named Wallcroft asking, "Where are the trucks?!" Then, the game cuts to a scene of a family of tourists visiting London and preparing to go to Big Ben. The entire sequence is shot through the lens of a handheld camera by the father. As the man, woman, and very young girl continue, you see a van pull up behind them (obviously the missing trucks). Shortly after, the girl goes to play with some birds near the truck and you can pretty much guess what happens next. Boom! The truck explodes, killing the entire family.
Was it shocking? Yes. Is it disturbing? Absolutely. Anytime you see an innocent civilian, let alone a child, as a victim of war or terrorism, it's going to elicit some sort of emotional response. It hits especially close to home for us in the U.S. which remember 9/11 so vividly. But here's the thing, it's not as controversial as it is realistic. Or better yet, maybe it's controversial BECAUSE it's realistic. Because this type of thing can happen, people really don't want to see it.
Sledgehammer has recently released statements defending the scene, "We wanted to show, certainly in some particular cases, we wanted to show the effect of war."
As shocking as that statement may seem, the fact is, it's truth. Growing up in a time when it seems like we're always under terror alerts, it's very plausible that this very scene could happen before our eyes. As scary as it seems, this type of thing DOES happen, though usually not so close to home. Sledgehammer has come out defending, "What happens if a modern American city gets attacked? What would that be like, what would you see? If you were walking down the street, what would happen?"
"Civilians are part of that, innocent people are part of it unfortunately."
It's a sad and unfortunate truth, but if Sledgehammer, Activision, and Infinity Ward are going to create a realistic simulation of terrorism in our countries then they can't hold back, nor should they. Terrorists sure don't, and they are targeting actual humans, not digital pixels.
This scene is considered controversial because it's truth. This type of thing does happen, usually in countries we don't hear much about though. I commend the developers for taking the risk and putting up with the media and public backlash in determination to make the game as realistic game as possible.
"It can't just be gratuitous," Sledgehammer Games' creative director Brett Robbins added, "it can't just be fantasy. It needs to be real missions, things that you think could possibly happen, given the extraordinary circumstances that you're creating. So it's always walking that fine line of believability and insanity and crazy action."
To make the player want to play and succeed, you've got to give them reason. This scene gives them a reason and makes them actually care about succeeding in their mission to stop terrorism.
The fact is, an act like this could be committed. This scene doesn't have the player committing the murder, unlike Modern Warfare 2. Instead, it has you as an innocent bystander, or rather viewing it through the eyes of a camera lens being held by the father. Nothing makes you feel more helpless than not being able to save them. It is for that reason players will want to succeed with the "good guys" when taking out the terrorists.
We should just be grateful that this type of thing is happening in a video game and not in our very streets.