Russian TV report links bombing to U.S. video game
Robert Mackey over at The Lede flags this Russia Today report, discussing similarities between yesterday’s attack at Domodedovo and a sequence “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 in which players take part in a terrorist attack on a fictional Russian airport. The RT piece quotes Walid Phares, Director of Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation ...
Robert Mackey over at The Lede flags this Russia Today report, discussing similarities between yesterday's attack at Domodedovo and a sequence “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 in which players take part in a terrorist attack on a fictional Russian airport.
Robert Mackey over at The Lede flags this Russia Today report, discussing similarities between yesterday’s attack at Domodedovo and a sequence “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 in which players take part in a terrorist attack on a fictional Russian airport.
The RT piece quotes Walid Phares, Director of Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, suggesting that games like Modern Warfare could be inspiring terrorist attacks or used for training purposes. That seems pretty unlikely in this case. Watching clips of the game sequence called "No Russian" (NSFW), it doesn’t seem to have much at all in common with the real-life attack, though it does seem gratuitously violent and justifiably offensive to Russians. (Simulating a massacre of unarmed civilians for fun seems borderline sociopathic to me, but I pretty much gave up on videogames when N64 came out so I invite arguments from more dedicated gamers.)
In any case, it is true that videogames have increasingly become a part of military training and recruitment and that the line between those simulations and mass-market games is often blurred. Peter Singer discussed this for an FP piece last March, in which Modern Warfare 2 was discussed at some length:
[W]hile America‘s Army is technically a publicly funded recruiting and training platform, its main commercial rival is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, a game published by Activision Blizzard. The two games compete for market share, but also over who can better define contemporary war zones. In America‘s Army, you deploy to the fictitious country of Ghanzia; in Modern Warfare 2, you join a U.S. special operations team that roams from Afghanistan to the Caucasus, winning hearts and minds (or losing them) with a mix of machine pistols and Predator strikes. The players also fight it out in a range of potential future areas of conflict, from Brazil’s rough urban favelas to a simulated Russian invasion of Washington, D.C. (This is actually a major flaw in the game; any invasion force would clearly get stuck in Beltway traffic.)
The stakes are high. Modern Warfare 2 came out on Nov. 10, 2009. By the end of the next day, it had racked up $310 million in sales. To put this in perspective, Avatar, James Cameron’s latest Hollywood blockbuster (notably following an ex-Marine remotely fighting through a video-game-like battle environment), earned a measly $27 million on its first day. Another comparison might be even more apt. Roughly 70,000 young Americans chose to join the U.S. Army last year. By contrast, 4.7 million chose to spend Veterans Day playing war at home.
And this is no mere American trend. More than 350 million people play video games worldwide, with the war-oriented sector perhaps the most important part of the global market. Modern Warfare 2 may have players join a U.S. special operations team, but one out of every 49 British citizens did so in its first 24 hours.
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating
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